Margaret Trudeau

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Margaret Trudeau
Margaret Trudeau 2015.jpg
Trudeau in 2015
Born Margaret Joan Sinclair
(1948-09-10) September 10, 1948 (age 67)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Known for Former spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada, mother of the Prime Minister of Canada
Spouse(s) Pierre Trudeau (1971–1984)
Fried Kemper (c. 1984–1999)
Children Justin (born 1971)
Alexandre (born 1973)
Michel (1975–1998)
Kyle Kemper (born 1984)
Alicia Kemper (born 1988)

Margaret Joan Sinclair (born September 10, 1948), known by her married name Trudeau, is an author, actress, photographer, former television talk show hostess, and social advocate for people with bipolar disorder; the former wife of Pierre Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada; and the mother of Justin Trudeau, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, and his brothers Alexandre and Michel.

Early years[edit]

Margaret was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, the daughter of Doris Kathleen (née Bernard) and James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.[1] One of her maternal ancestors was East India Company figure William Farquhar.[2] Her father was Scottish and her mother's ancestry included English, Scottish, Dutch, French, and a Malaysian five times great-grandmother.[2]

Her family moved to Ottawa, Ontario in 1952 when her father was appointed to the cabinet and returned to North Vancouver after he lost his reelection bid in 1958. Trudeau graduated from Simon Fraser University in 1969 with a bachelor of arts in sociology.[3]


As an 18-year-old vacationing in Tahiti with her family, she met Pierre Trudeau, who was then Minister of Justice. Sinclair did not recognize him, and she in fact thought little of their encounter, but Trudeau was captivated by the carefree "flower child", thirty years younger than he, and began to pursue her.

Trudeau was still a bachelor when appointed Prime Minister in 1968. After keeping their romance private, he astonished the country by marrying the 22-year-old Sinclair on March 4, 1971, at a private ceremony in North Vancouver.[4] This raised some eyebrows among Canadians because of the age difference (Trudeau was then 51), but it was considered typical behaviour for a vivacious Prime Minister who prided himself on his "progressive" views and youthful vigour. As Pierre Trudeau was a Catholic, she converted to Roman Catholicism for their marriage. She would in later life study Buddhism although she now considers herself an Anglican. Asked about her role in a marriage to the prime minister, Margaret Trudeau said, "I want to be more than a rose in my husband's lapel."

Mrs. Trudeau had difficulty adjusting to her new position. "From the day I became Mrs. Pierre Elliott Trudeau," she writes in her memoirs, "a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me, like a patient in a mental hospital who is no longer considered able to make decisions and who cannot be exposed to a harsh light."[5] The couple had three children: Justin (born December 25, 1971), Alexandre (Sacha) (born December 25, 1973), and Michel (October 2, 1975 – November 13, 1998).

Margaret Trudeau (third from left) at the White House in 1977, alongside her husband Pierre, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter

Though the couple initially appeared to have a very close and loving relationship, the marriage soon began to fall apart. Margaret resented her husband's constant work-related absences and was forced to raise her three young sons largely by herself. Beyond the normal extensive publicity that her high-profile position brought, on a few instances she made her own headlines. Margaret smuggled drugs in the prime minister's luggage, made scantily clad appearances at Studio 54, and tore apart a quilt work made by Canadian conceptual artist Joyce Wieland[6] that hung on the wall in the prime minister's official residence in Ottawa because it celebrated "reason over passion".[7]

Over time, the marriage disintegrated to the point that, as recounted in her book, Margaret had an affair with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. She was also associated with members of the Rolling Stones, including Ronnie Wood[8] and (according to Keith Richards's autobiography, Life) Mick Jagger.[9][10]

Suffering from stress and bouts of bipolar depression, she separated from her husband in 1977 and became a much-talked-about jet-setter.[11] She gave many "tell-all" interviews to Canadian and American magazines and appeared in two motion pictures. Pierre Trudeau won custody of the children and did not pay any spousal support. Margaret had a difficult time earning a living after her marriage. She wrote the book Beyond Reason about her marriage.

On the eve of the 1979 election, in which Trudeau's party lost the majority of seats in the House of Commons, Margaret was dancing at Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. A photo of her there was featured on many front pages across Canada.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Margaret Trudeau filed for a no-fault divorce on November 16, 1983 which was finalized on April 2, 1984, and on April 18, 1984, with her three sons attending, she married in a civil ceremony Ottawa real-estate developer Fried Kemper, with whom she had two children: son Kyle (born 1984); and daughter Alicia (born 1988).[12][13][11]

In November 1998, the Trudeaus' youngest son, Michel, an avid outdoorsman, was killed when an avalanche swept him to the bottom of British Columbia's Kokanee Lake. The loss of her son was devastating for Trudeau, and she suffered another major depressive episode that led to her second divorce.[14]

When Pierre Trudeau died in 2000, Margaret Trudeau was at his bedside with their surviving sons, Justin and Alexandre.[15] Speaking in 2010 about her marriage to Trudeau she said: "Just because our marriage ended didn’t mean the love stopped."[16]

On October 19, 2015, her eldest son, Justin Trudeau, led the Liberal Party to a majority government, becoming the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada.

Work, advocacy and writing[edit]

Today, Trudeau is the honorary president of WaterCan, an Ottawa-based organization dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services.[citation needed]

On May 5, 2006, Trudeau announced that she had been suffering from bipolar disorder.[11] Since then, she has advocated for reducing the social stigma of mental illness — bipolar disorder in particular — with speaking engagements across North America.[13][17] She is an honorary patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association.[18]

Trudeau is the author of Changing My Mind, a book about her personal experience having bipolar disorder, published by HarperCollins Canada in 2010.[19]


On June 19, 2013 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario in recognition of her work to combat mental illness.[20]




  • Morning Magazine (1981-1983)
  • Margaret (1983-1984)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnson, J. Keith; Public Archives of Canada (1968). The Canadian directory of Parliament, 1867-1967. Queen's Printer. p. 532. 
  2. ^ a b "Margaret Trudeau". CBC News. 2008. Archived from the original on January 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ Ip, Stephanie (September 6, 2015). "The Alumni: SFU celebrates 50 years of learning and leaders". The Province. Retrieved November 12, 2015. 
  4. ^ Christopher Guly (2000-10-01). "Archive: The man who kept Trudeau's biggest secret". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2015-10-20. 
  5. ^ Trudeau, Margaret (1980). Beyond Reason. New York, New York: Pocket Books. p. 193. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 115. ISBN 0-465-04195-7. 
  8. ^ Link text
  9. ^ Richards, Keith (2010). Life. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-03438-X. OCLC 548642133. :Page 393
  10. ^ Day, Elizabeth (November 13, 2011). "The Rolling Stones: that 50-year itch". The Guardian (London). 
  11. ^ a b c Hampson, Sarah (May 8, 2009). "Margaret Trudeau is solo, sane, 60 - and irrepressible as ever". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Margaret Trudeau remarries". Milwaukee Sentinel. April 19, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Anzalone, Charles (Winter 2008). "Margaret Trudeau: Forgiveness. Gratitude. Wisdom". bp 3 (2): 22–26. Archived from the original (– Scholar search) on 2008-03-21. 
  14. ^ "Justin Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, was like the Princess Diana of Canada — with a happy ending - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. 2015-10-22. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  15. ^ Ex-wife at Trudeau's deathbed The Times. 30 September.
  16. ^ "Margaret Trudeau’s last breakdown" article by Anne Kingston article in MacLeans, Canada 8 October, 2010
  17. ^ Harrold, Max (2007-11-17). "A plea for more aid, less ignorance: Margaret Trudeau at mental health forum describes long struggle with bipolar disorder". The Gazette. p. A7. 
  18. ^ CMHA - about us. Retrieved on 2014-01-15 from
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  20. ^

External links[edit]