I followed the conversation with Ville Saint-Laurent MP, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, and Commissioner of the Official Languages, Raymond Théberge, which took place virtually a few days ago.
Emmanuella Lambropoulos, a Greek-origin MP in her early 30’s currently serving her second term in Parliament as a member of the ruling Liberal Party, is there defending the rights of the English-speaking minority of Quebec. In this capacity, she conveyed certain questions to Théberge, noting that unilingual anglophones in Quebec are experiencing difficulties in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of French where it is very difficult for all non-French speakers to secure employment.
Emmanuella Lambropoulos did not make any statement, but, rather, asked the following question to the Commissioner for Official Languages:
“I have another question along the same lines. We hear that the French language is declining in Quebec. I don’t want to call it a myth; I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I’ve heard that on several occasions. I have to see proof in order to believe that.”
It is at this point that Conservative MP, Alain Rayes, and Bloc Québécois MP, Stéphane Bergeron, stood up and demanded her expulsion from the Commission. In fact, similar remarks were made in Parliament by other MPs from the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party. How could Emmanuela Lambropoulos dare challenge the concept of the use of the French language in Quebec, they intended?
Of course, without any valid reason, the knives were out for the ethnic MP Lambropoulos in the French media. The result is that some MPs from the Liberal Party attacked Lambropoulos (Propos d’Emmanuella Lambropoulos sur le français | « J’étais vraiment abasourdie » (lapresse.ca)
It should be noted that the attack on Emmanuella Lambropoulos culminated in an ugly sketch published in the vaunted Montreal French-language newspaper, “La Presse,” where she appears to be slapped by a Liberal colleague while others await their turn in line to do likewise.
Needless to say, the sketch had Canada’s Greek community up in arms. The Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, the Hellenic Congress of Quebec and the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal addressed statements to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Inter-Party Committee for Official Languages and to “La Presse” condemning the sexist and misogynistic depiction of the young Lambropoulos being subjected to violence by men in a country of democracy and equality such as Canada.
The falsification of Emmanuela Lambropoulos’ question by opposition MPs, but also by those of her own party, clearly shows that it is fodder for any politician of any faction to try and take advantage of the sensitive issue of the French language in Quebec. It can offer political benefits and all sides are eyeing the many seats in Canada’s French-speaking province, knowing full well that an election could be around the corner.
Quebec’s anglophones often do not dare ask the obvious questions about the use of the English language and the difficult realities of their monolingualism. Those belonging to ethnic communities, even though often trilingual, continue to be bullied and made to feel like second class citizens by those allegedly cut from the French-speaking cloth of Quebec society.
The Greek community of Quebec and Canada is fully supportive of Ms. Lambropoulos and may end up being indifferent for the Liberals in the next federal election, especially in Justin Trudeau’s Greek-heavy riding of Papineau.
It is noteworthy that, although this shameful sketch should have been a rallying point for an “egalitarian” party like the Liberals, neither the Prime Minister nor anyone in his parliamentary caucus has come out with an official condemnation!