BLIZZARD: Canada’s potential first lady, Nazanin MacKay, is a born fighter

Interesting comment “even had people suggest they won’t vote for her husband because she’s Muslim. In fact, MacKay was raised Catholic and still practises that faith.” Likely reflects some parts of the Conservative base.

I knew her professionally when she was a board member of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and I was DG – Citizenship and Multiculturalism. My mini-review of The Tale of Two Nazanins can be found here):

In some ways, she is the daughter of a revolution.

Born in Tehran in 1979, the same year Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard came to power, Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay has a fierce passion for defending democracy and human rights — especially those of women and children.

Her father was the manager of a western hotel in Tehran at the time of the revolution. Unaware of the changes the takeover would make, he conducted business as usual, allowing men and women to mingle and allowing alcohol to be served in the hotel — all forbidden by the Islamist regime.

One day, the Revolutionary Guard broke in and arrested him. He was imprisoned and tortured, but was saved from summary execution by a fluke.

Freed as soon as his wounds healed, he fled to Spain and was joined by his family two months later. They moved to Canada shortly after.

MacKay, wife of Conservative Party of Canada leadership front-runner Peter MacKay, was a baby at the time. Still, her family history instilled in her a passion for human rights. She is co-founder of the group Stop Child Executions. [Inactive since January 2016]

In 2006, MacKay heard of another Nazanin in Iran. Nazanin Fatehi was about be executed after she fought off three men attempting to rape her and her niece. One of the men died. Fatehi was charged with murder.

After that campaign, other families got in touch with MacKay, asking for help saving their children in similar situations.

“I realized there were a lot of children condemned to execution,” she said.

The organization counted more than 160 children on death row in Iran, along with a handful in other countries who needed help. She estimates they were able to save 12 children.

MacKay has an impressive resume. The mother of three small children, she is a former Miss World Canada and runner-up in the global Miss World. She has a pilot’s licence and was once a recording artist. But her main focus is her fight for human rights of oppressed people.

Her favourite song from her recording days is Someday.

“It’s a revolution song, encouraging the people in Iran to rise up and one day, this regime that shackled the people will be gone and we’ll see a free and democratic country that takes into account the voices of the people,” she said.

She used the Miss World competition as a platform to shine a light on the rights of women and children.

One discouraging aspect of the ongoing leadership campaign is how her Mideast background has been misrepresented on social media. She has been falsely accused of supporting Omar Khadr’s $10.5-million payout, and even had people suggest they won’t vote for her husband because she’s Muslim. In fact, MacKay was raised Catholic and still practises that faith.

The accusations that she supported Khadr’s payout are nonsense.

“There’s nothing further from the truth,” she said.

At the time, she made it clear that Canada had national and international obligations to its citizens.

“Whether we like it or not, he’s a Canadian citizen. It’s horrible what he did and he definitely should not have been compensated with that money,” she said.

“But we’re a country that follows the rule of law and we have our own obligations. I didn’t agree necessarily that we repatriate him back to Canada and that he be set free like any other citizen. I said we have to wait and see what the courts order.”

She believes Khadr should redeem himself by giving the money to the family of his victim.

If her husband wins the leadership, don’t expect Nazanin to sit on the sidelines. She speaks her mind.

“He’ll definitely hear from me, whether he likes it or not,” she said with a laugh.

With degrees in international relations, political science and diplomacy, she has a lot to contribute.

Her story is quintessentially Canadian: like so many others. She came here for a better life, found it, and now gives back to her new country.

Source: BLIZZARD: Canada’s potential first lady, Nazanin MacKay, is a born fighter