Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech at an event of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis participated in an event of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, together with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.

At the beginning of the event, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was named Honorary President of the Community, in recognition of his work. “You have made us so proud”, noted the President of the Community Centre where the event was hosted, George Tsoukas.

The expatriates thanked the Greek Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Canada for their strong support towards the expatriate community and for the plans to build a new, “green” community centre that will include cultural, sports and school facilities, as reflected in the joint statement adopted earlier by the two leaders. Justin Trudeau announced during the event that the Canadian government will provide support of 10 million canadian dollars.

The Prime Minister’s speech follows:

I’m really delighted to be here in Montreal, one of the greatest centers of Ecumenical Hellenism. Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you so much.

Prime Minister, I was so inspired by your remarks. I will ditch my prepared remarks. So allow me, first of all, to say how honoured I am to be here with you today. Honoured to be the first Greek Prime Minister in 41 years to officially visit Canada, a country with which we share such strong bonds.

But you know something? As I was looking through my archive, I discovered something interesting. Because 41 years ago, a young Justin Trudeau visited Athens together with his father and his two younger brothers. I have a photo of him here. For a teenager, he actually looks quite interested in what he was seeing. I’ll give him this photo as a souvenir.

But I cannot imagine a better place to spend Independence Day than with you here in Montreal, to celebrate this diversity, strength, and dynamism of the Greek-Canadian community.

I was so impressed, as I observed the parade today, and I saw all generations, proud Canadians, proud Greeks, proud of your heritage within Greece, cherishing what the Prime Minister said.

This has been a great achievement of your country, dear Justin. You can be both proud Canadian and proud Greek. It is testimony to what makes this country so great.

Of course, for us, Independence Day is a very special day because that was the day when Greeks rose up against all odds, fought for their independence, and prevailed. This is the origin of the modern Greek state. Over the past 203 years, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. This was not a smooth path. Democracy is never an easy exercise. But I’m proud to be standing here in front of you and tell you that, yes, Greece today is in a very, very good shape.

We overcame significant difficulties. We spent a decade in a profound financial and social crisis. When we were first elected in 2019, my first job was to ensure that the economy would be put back on a sustainable growth path, that we would create jobs, that we would lower unemployment, and that we would be able to lure back those young Greeks who had no choice but to leave Greece during the depth of the financial crisis.

And five years later, Greece is growing at a pace which is much faster than that of the Eurozone. It is attracting significant foreign investment. It has put its macroeconomic house in order. But most importantly, it is what you tell me, that you’re proud again to be Greeks, that Greece is no longer the ‘black sheep’ of the European family. It is a country with confidence, well represented within the European Union, and working with our partners in order to solve very, very complicated global problems.

You have a critical role to play in this effort. Because one of the reasons I decided to spend the Independence Day with you was because we took an important decision in the Hellenic Parliament a few months ago: we decided for the first time in our history to give you the opportunity to be able to vote in the Greek elections through postal voting without having to show up at the Embassy or without having to show up with the return to Greece. It is important for us in Greece, in order for you, for those of you who have a right to vote in Greece, to be able to participate in these elections.

We have an electronic platform which is open. You can register until the end of April. I would encourage you to do so because Justin said something which is very important: “democracy is never easy”. But at the end of the day, the strength of our democracies is so dependent on the democratic participation of all citizens. The fewer citizens participate in the democratic process, the less legitimacy the elected leaders will have.

As a community which is deeply interested in what is happening in Greece, we want you to actually have a say, first of all in the European elections, which are very important because they determine the European Parliamentarians who will represent us at the European Parliament for the next five years. Then in the upcoming national elections, in 2027. We count on your voice, and we want you to be active participants in Greek domestic politics. That is why we want you to participate in these elections, and I am sure you will do so.

With Prime Minister Trudeau, we had an opportunity to discuss numerous topics of mutual interest. We spoke about the big global challenges that we are facing. We both, as Justin said, visited Ukraine. We witnessed the devastation, the pain, the suffering, which was caused by an unjust war of invasion. We reaffirmed our commitment to a rules-based international order. We cannot accept the use of force for the violation of international borders. That is why we stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes to allow Ukrainians to defend themselves to the best of their ability.

We also spoke about the other important global challenges. Global warming is one of them. We were both struck last year with devastating wildfires, and it was indeed a great privilege today to be able to be the first European country to sign an order for seven new firefighting planes constructed here in Canada to replace our ageing fleet of Cannadairs.

We were instrumental in convincing the European Union to co-finance this project, and in total, 24 planes by five different European countries will be purchased. All of them will be built in Canada. This is just another demonstration of how we can work together in order to fight global challenges such as global warming.

I think we also spoke about the threats to our democracy, about the fact that the political discourse today can become so divisive, so corrosive, that we have difficulties acknowledging the other opinion, reaching across the aisle, forming consensus, everything that is so fundamental in order for a vibrant democracy to continue to function properly and to prosper. These are challenges which need to be met head-on.

In 2024, think about it, almost half of the world’s population is going to vote in elections. This is going to be the biggest electoral year in history. Yet this is also a time when we’re bombarded with new challenges, with fake news, with deep fakes, with artificial intelligence which can be used in the hands of those who want to disrupt our democratic processes. We, all democracies, need to be aligned, and we need to work together to counter these challenges. As you understand, there is a lot we can do together, Greece and Canada.

But again, let me finish from where I started. The reason I am here is to celebrate the incredible dynamism of the Greek-Canadian community, especially this community here in Montreal. Mr. President, you have done remarkable things. The quality of your schools, the social networks you have built, the ability to educate your children in three languages, French, English, Greek, these are remarkable, remarkable achievements. I feel I should also now write a check about the new Community Centre, but I cannot do so unless I have the approval of my Minister of Finance. But rest assured, we will continue to support the Greek diaspora.

We have for the first time, a national strategy for our diaspora, which was approved at our cabinet a month ago. We have new tools, electronic tools, to help young children learn Greek, an incredible programme called ‘Sta Ellinika’, which actually was developed at Simon Fraser University, and is actually being used as a pilot for other languages. The Prime Minister was telling me he’s using the same technology for some of your indigenous languages. This is, I think, another remarkable testimony of how we can cooperate together.

But at the end of the day, what I will remember most from this day is the image of the young children who sang both the Canadian and the Greek national anthem with the same pride, with the same energy, with the same enthusiasm.

Long live Greece, long live Canada, long live March 25th.

Thank you so much for welcoming us both here today. Thank you.