The wife of Canada’s prime minister has sparked a fierce national debate after saying she needs more help to expand her official role and take on more public duties.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau last week told a French-language newspaper that she wanted to do more, but struggled with just one staff member.
Grégoire Trudeau, a former TV presenter married to Justin Trudeau, has no office and reportedly answers official correspondence from her dining table.
“I’d love to be everywhere but I can’t,” she told Le Soleil. “I have three children and a husband who is prime minister. I need help. I need a team to help me serve the people.”
Grégoire Trudeau said she received regular requests from charities to promote their causes, but she could not respond to them all without an extra hand.
“It’s hard to choose, because it’s touching when people ask for your help. People really lay out their suffering in some of the letters I receive.”
The statement prompted howls of outrage from opposition politicians, who accused her of being out of touch and noted that the previous first lady coped with just one aide.
“Hearing statements like that certainly does not speak to the reality that Canadian women face and the kind of struggles that, you know, that they’re undertaking day in, day out,” opposition MP Niki Ashton said.
“Certainly the kind of statements we heard from the prime minister’s wife, you know, speak to that disconnect with the reality that Canadian women face.”
The prime minister’s office said it was looking in to hiring a second staffer for the first lady.
Meanwhile, Twitter users likened Grégoire Trudeau to Kim Kardashian and started the hashtag #prayforSophie.
The role of “first lady” has no real formal status in the Canadian system, but the prime minister’s wife traditionally gets support in performing official activities, a point that was made by supporters of Gregoire Trudeau.
The Toronto Star newspaper ran an editorial on Sunday titled: Sophie Grégoire Trudeau should have all the help she needs to fulfill her role.
“The instant, often spiteful reaction from both social media and other politicians who should know better smacks of ignorance about the requirements of the role the prime minister’s wife has taken on,” it said.
CBC News suggested the first lady was targeted because she was a “tall poppy”, something Canadians abhor.
Grégoire Trudeau herself has not commented on the furore.
But some on Twitter suggested the hounding of Gregoire Trudeau was not just about politics, but sexism, while an open letter to the first lady of Facebook noted “society seems to have a problem when women ask for help”.
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