07/27/2012 10:19 EDT | Updated 07/27/2012 10:48 EDT

Jim Day Hits Back At Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay Over Omar Khadr Story

Nazanin Afshin-Jam

The journalist criticized by author and activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay for referring to her as the "Defence Minister's wife" is fighting back.

Jim Day, a reporter for the The Guardian in P.E.I., told the National Post on Thursday that "Mrs. Afshin-Jam was on Prince Edward Island Wednesday to speak at a dinner hosted by the District 17 Progressive Conservative Association. I doubt this came about as a result of her title as former Miss World Canada or due to her admirable activism work.

Day goes on to say it was more likely her appearance came about as a result of her union with "one of the most powerful Conservative politicians in the country," referring to her marriage to Peter MacKay.


The row began after Day wrote an article in which Afshin-Jam MacKay calls for the return of Omar Khadr to Canada.

Khadr is currently incarcerated at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is the last Western citizen remaining at the controversial facility. The Conservative government is refusing to repatriate him on the grounds that they do not yet have enough information about his case from the U.S. government.

Afshin-Jam MacKay took issue with the story on Facebook after it quickly garnered attention, earning the top spot on the popular political aggregation site National Newswatch.

In the post, Afshin-Jam MacKay accuses Day of ignoring her recent book, the ostensible subject of the interview, and peppering her with questions aimed at getting her to criticize the government. She also writes that despite telling her she is tired of being referred to as MacKay's wife in interviews, Day did so anyway.

"I am extremely disappointed with the Guardian and I will think twice before speaking to them again," writes Afshin-Jam MacKay.

In the headline and first paragraph of Day's piece Afshin-Jam MacKay is referred to as the Defence Minister's wife. He identifies her by name in the second paragraph.

Day also wrote a second article, however, in which Afshin-Jam MacKay is referred to by name in the opening paragraph. In that piece, Day quotes her regarding her frustration with being constantly referred to as MacKay's wife.

"I don’t think it’s very relevant in what I’m saying in that moment because it has nothing to do with him or the work. So in that capacity I think it’s superfluous," Afshin-Jam MacKay says.

Day tells The Globe And Mail he did not pressure Afshin-Jam Mackay to talk about Khadr and that he referred to her as the Defence Minister's wife because that is what she is most recognized by the public for.

He refers the Globe to the fact that Afshin-Jam MacKay told him: "Anybody that is going to give a platform to me to speak on behalf of those most vulnerable in the world, particularly those that are suffering in Iran right now... if it means that my husband’s title can help garner some attention, well all the (more) power."

The pundits are already weighing in on the spat, with CTV's Don Martin advising Afshin-Jam MacKay to continue to speak her mind and to resist being silenced by the Prime Minister's Office.

The Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor is less understanding. On Twitter he wrote: "Does Nazanin Afshin-Jam believe newspapers would be soliciting her opinions so often were she not MacKay's wife?"

And that's the question that gets to the heart of this controversy. Would we care what Afshin-Jam MacKay has to say if she were not married to a cabinet minister? Should the personal opinions of political spouses be subject to government message control?

The debate rages on, but for our part we hope Afshin-Jam MacKay continues to keep Canadians engaged in this conversation and in those regarding issues in the wider world.


Twitter On Afshin-Jam And Khadr

Nazanin Afshin-Jam