Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech at an expatriate event at the Toronto Convention Centre

The Prime Minister attended and spoke at an expatriate event at the Toronto Convention Centre, which was also attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Prime Minister’s speech follows:

“Your Eminence, thank you so much for your inspiring voice, but thank you for the leadership you have provided to the Greek-Canadian community. Your journey truly has been remarkable. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done. Vassiliki, thank you for hosting this event. And, Justin, you were right, because I had an opportunity to give a short interview and she certainly treated me with the necessary firmness. There were no easy questions, but you were right, Justin, when you put it out that you wear your Greek-Canadian heritage very proudly on your sleeve, as all of you do. So thank you so much for hosting today’s event.

My good friend, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, you’re right to point out that it was your father who brought over to Canada the last Greek Prime Minister. It was just the wrong Prime Minister. You should have brought Konstantinos Mitsotakis and not Andreas Papandreou. But I’m so happy. I’m so happy to be with you here today to celebrate Independence Day. And indeed, this is the first time that I have decided to celebrate Greek National Independence Day outside Greece. Normally I’m in Athens at the big military parade. But this year, I decided to make an exception. I decided to be with you here in Canada. And boy, was this the right decision.

Indeed, this is an important day for Greeks, but it is also, I think, an important day for all freedom-fighting nations, because it is probably worthwhile reflecting exactly what happened 203 years ago, when the Greek nation rose up against the all powerful Ottoman Empire and against all odds managed to win its freedom. And this freedom, it has defended for more than two centuries and through the ebbs and flows of history, through triumphs and disasters, Greece has progressed, it has moved in the right direction. It was always with Canada on the right side of history.

And part of our history is also the history of immigration. It is the history of those Greeks in difficult times, your parents, your grandparents, who decided to leave Greece in search of a better future. Many of those decided to make Canada their second home. I think they chose wisely because you have indeed progressed. You have become part of this great nation, but you have also kept alive your Greek heritage, your regional heritage. It is such a pleasure to be able to see all the dancers with all the regional costumes.

Yesterday, at this lovely parade in Montreal, I saw a vibrant Greek community, proud of its heritage, but also proud of being Canadian, and what Canada has done, to incorporate not just the Greek community, but all national communities into this beautiful country while making sure that they maintain their national heritage, cherish their roots, celebrate their history, is truly a remarkable story. So I pay tribute to all of those who are present here today, who keep Greece in your heart but sing both national anthems with the same vigour and with the same enthusiasm. Yours is truly a remarkable story.

When I reflect on the progress that Greece has recently made, I should point out that we also went through a very difficult period during the second decade of the 21st century, when essentially the country went bankrupt. It had to go through multiple bailout programmes. It was considered by many and for many years the ‘black sheep’ of Europe.

When we took over, we had a very clear plan in 2019 to restore sustainable growth, to create jobs, to lower taxes, to make Greece an investor friendly country. I think to a great extent we have succeeded in that mission.

But what is probably most important to me, and this means more than all the statistics and all the GDP numbers and all the unemployment figures, is what people tell me abroad: ‘Thank you for making us again proud of our country’. This is the biggest reward for me and my team.

Today in Toronto, I had a chance to meet with leaders of the Canadian business community. Many Canadian companies have already invested in Greece. They’ve been very successful in doing so. I am sure that as a result of this trip and as a result of me and my team talking more about the economic success of Greece, we will be able to further strengthen, dear Justin, our economic ties, trade ties, our investment flows, convince more Canadian companies to be part of the Greek success story.

But also, why not convince more Greek businesses to invest in Canada? Because maybe not many of you know that there is a Greek company that is currently interested in developing the largest photovoltaic plant in Canada, 1.2 billion dollars. Greek companies are going to be more extrovert, investing more abroad, and further strengthening this amazing partnership.

Of course, there are many things that bind us together. Fighting the challenge of climate change is one of them. The Prime Minister mentioned that both our countries went through catastrophic wildfires last year. We agree that we need to invest more, not just in long term mitigation effort, but also in short term adaptation measures. That is the reason why we chose to place our trust again in Canadian water bombers. We’re purchasing seven of those. They will be constructed by De Havilland right here in Canada. An initiative funded partly by the European Union, and this is only the first order of 24 in total, which will be purchased by five European countries in order to create a pool of resources that we can share also during the European difficult summer periods.

But of course, with Canada, we also cooperate on other issues. We are faced with, as Justin said, with momentous challenges. For us in Europe, it is so painful to realise that war has returned to the continent. You are still, further away, protected by the Atlantic Ocean, but what has happened in Europe was inconceivable five years ago. Yet now we are faced with a war of aggression. It is imperative for all Western liberal democracies to stand side by side, defend the rules-based international order, send a clear signal that no violation of international borders by force can be tolerated.

This is the reason I was in Ukraine, Justin was in Ukraine. We stand by the Ukrainian people in their fight to defend themselves. We fight for their future.

And of course, the other challenges we face is how do we make our democracies stronger? We know something about democracy because it was the ancient Athenians who invented this so unique concept, two and a half thousand years ago, that at the end of the day, it is no king, no emperor, no pharaoh, who rules over people, but it is people themselves who take the decision to rule themselves and take their future into their own hands.

And liberal democracies are facing challenges these days. They’re facing challenges from disinformation. The war against fake news is a war that we all need to fight together. The war against deep fakes, which are coming, will be part of our next elections, is something which requires a global response. Us working together, but also teaming up with the big technology companies and making them also responsible for protecting the integrity of our democratic process.

But of course, at the end of the day, democracy, and let me conclude with this remark, is about participation. The more people participate in the democratic process, the greater the legitimacy of the election results. This is important because for those of you who actually have a right to vote in Greece, we managed to do something which is very, very important. For many decades, I remember -I studied in the United States for seven years, I’ve been very close to the American diaspora-, there was always one request: ‘why do we have to return to Greece in order to be able to vote?’ Well, that has changed. You can vote in the next European election by posting in your ballot vote. And if you’re interested, please register and participate in these elections.

It is important for us to make this project a success, and I’m sure that this will happen and we will continue to support the diaspora and strengthen the ties between the motherland and those of you who are going through great effort to make sure that you educate your children, your grandchildren, that your children speak the language.
I have full respect for what the local communities, both in Montreal and in Toronto, are doing. We really run extremely well-organized schools. Now, we also have more technological tools at our disposal. There is a great tool called ‘Sta Ellinika’, which was actually developed by Simon Fraser University that allows children or adults to learn Greek remotely through a very sophisticated computer interface. We will continue to stand by you. We have for the first time a national strategy for our diaspora. Our diaspora is such an incredible asset.

Let me conclude by a remark. I thought about this while I was doing a fireside chat over lunch. And Mr. Nanos, who interviewed me, asked me a question: ‘what would you like your legacy to be when you retire?’ I can tell you, as active politicians, we very rarely think about that. We have our hands full with day-to-day matters. But I thought maybe the best legacy would be to have a country where young people never, ever are forced to leave the country by necessity. And will only leave the country by choice. This is the Greece I envisage and this is the Greece we are all working towards.

Again, thank you so much for being here. Thank you for your engagement.

Happy Independence Day, long live Greece, long live Canada”.