The wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has prompted an intense national debate for saying she needs additional staff to help her manage her public duties.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau told a French-language newspaper based in Quebec that she was keen to do more but she was overwhelmed with work and struggled with just one aid.
“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.”
Ms Grégoire Trudeau, a 41-year-old former television presenter, said she had been inundated with requests from charities to promote their causes since becoming Canada’s “first lady” but it was not possible for her to respond to everyone.
“It’s hard to choose, because it’s touching when people ask for your help,” she explained. “People really lay out their suffering in some of the letters that I receive. I tell myself: ‘I’ll try to send a message that will reach as many people as possible’.”
Her comments have prompted an onslaught of criticism from opposition politicians who argue she is detached from reality. Conservative Canadian MP Candice Bergen drew attention to the fact the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, had managed with just a single aide. While new democrat MP, Niki Ashton, said she was disconnected from the wider Canadian public.
“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,” Ms 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 issue has been fiercely debated on social media, with the hashtag #jesuissophie and #prayforsophie trending and there has been an onslaught of column pieces exploring the divisive issue.
"If you think Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau shouldn't have help because she 'doesn't have a job', you might want to Google the word 'misogyny'," wrote one Twitter user.
“Instead of sexist remarks #sophiegregoiretrudeau deserves acclaim + extra help for standing up for women!” added another.
But the majority of Twitter users have been less sympathetic to her situation.
“Dear Sophie when you seek recognition for doing charity, it is not charity at all,” wrote one user.
While another said, “I get she's the PM wife + has demands of her time, but think of any other Cdn woman you know, we all do. And we all deal with it”.
The Prime Minister’s Office have said they are exploring various options for Ms Grégoire Trudeau, including hiring a second staffer for her.
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