Peter MacKay Wedding: Canada Defence Minister Marries Nazanin Afshin-Jam In Mexico
OTTAWA - There are fewer swinging bachelors in Ottawa these days as two of the country's more high-profile cabinet ministers have tied the knot with their girlfriends in separate, low-key ceremonies.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay quietly married his girlfriend Nazanin Afshin-Jam at a private, civil ceremony in Mexico on Wednesday, while Heritage Minister James Moore and girlfriend Courtney Payne tied the knot on Dec. 29.
MacKay, whose love life has been the subject of often breathless media attention, released a statement on his constituency website announcing the nuptials, which took place in front of family and friends.
"Since coming into my life many of you have met Nazanin on her many visits to Nova Scotia. She is the most important person in my life and over the coming months, Nazanin and I look forward to spending more time at home in Central Nova and sharing our happiness with all of you," said MacKay.
The website crashed late Wednesday, presumably from the amount of traffic.
Friends say MacKay popped the question last summer.
Separately, a spokesman for Moore, James Maunder, confirmed his boss also got hitched over the holidays, but declined to comment — or give any details, saying it was a private matter for the minister and his new wife to address.
In contrast to MacKay's resort nuptuals, Moore's wedding took place in snowy Ottawa.
Payne is a communications staffer in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.
MacKay's new wife holds degrees in international relations and political science.
Afshin-Jam, 32, is also a human rights activist and president of Stop Child Executions, which tries to draw attention to the young people who are on death row in Iran.
She garnered wide attention and acclaim in 2003 for her successful campaign to stop the killing of Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi, an Iranian teenager who was sentenced to death by stoning for killing one of three men who were trying to rape her and her niece.
The plea received a lot of attention because Afshin-Jam had just been crowned Miss World Canada at the time. She was subsequently named the first runner up in the Miss World contest.
The couple was first spotted in public together last year, although they reportedly met seven years ago when Afshin-Jam was in Ottawa to speak about human rights abuses.
The new bride was born in Iran, but fled Tehran with her family following the 1979 Islamic revolution and immigrated to North Vancouver, B.C.
The wedding was a closely held secret, although both MacKay's parents, former Tory cabinet minister Elmer MacKay, and his mother, Macha MacKay, are reported to have attended the ceremony.
The news first filtered out over the social networking site Twitter when Conservative MP Laurie Hawn congratulated the couple and sent best wishes for a long life together.
Fellow Conservative member Scott Armstrong, whose Nova Scotia riding sits next door to MacKay's, chided Hawn over Twitter later in the evening:
"Way to scoop the bride and groom!"
The mayor of MacKay's hometown said he was delighted to hear the news, adding that he and his wife first met Afshin-Jam when the couple visited New Glasgow, N.S. over the summer.
"She is an absolutely delightful lady and a professional in her own right," said Barrie MacMillan. "I certainly wish Peter and his new bride the very best ... They're a fantastic match. They were meant for each other, as far as I'm concerned."
MacKay, who has been often voted the sexiest male MP in polls by the Parliamentary newspaper The Hill Times, has been engaged once before but never married.
Lisa Merrithew, the daughter of Gerald Merrithew another former Mulroney-era cabinet minister, and MacKay were in a long-term relationship, which ended seven years ago.
Shortly afterward, MacKay began a high-profile romance with Belinda Stronach, who was at the time a Conservative MP. Their break up was a breathtaking drama filled with political intrigue when Stronach crossed the floor to join Paul Martin's Liberal government.
Reporters camped out at the MacKay family home in Pictou County, N.S. until MacKay held an infamous news conference, with a dog at his side, to declare his heart had been broken.
In his book about the auto-parts heiress, Ottawa journalist Don Martin quoted Stronach as saying MacKay reacted "with volcanic fury" when he learned about her defection.
Later, MacKay was engaged to Jana Juginovic, the director of programming at CTV News. They announced wedding plans in late 2009 but called off the marriage a few months later.
Gossip, at one time, also linked MacKay to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But in her recent memoir "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington," Rice wrote that while she found MacKay charming, there was no truth to rumours they had a fling.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said McKay had been engaged twice before.
RELATED: Nazanin Afshin-Jam's Music Career
Along with being a human rights activist, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Peter MacKay's new wife, was also a beauty queen and a recording artist. Below, a look at some of the music she recorded.
Peter MacKay: The Elegant Bachelor