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Margaret Trudeau

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Margaret Trudeau
Born Margaret Joan Sinclair
(1948-09-10) September 10, 1948 (age 66)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Known for Former Spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada
Spouse(s) Pierre Trudeau (1971–1984)
Fried Kemper (ca. 1984–1999)
Children Justin
Michel (1975-1998)
Kyle Kemper
Alicia Kemper

Margaret Joan (Sinclair) Trudeau (born September 10, 1948) is the former wife of Pierre Trudeau, the 15th Prime Minister of Canada. She is an author, actress, photographer and former television talk show hostess. She is the mother of Justin, Alexandre and Michel Trudeau.

Early years and marriage

Trudeau was born Margaret Joan Sinclair in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the daughter of Doris Kathleen (née Bernard) and James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. One of her maternal ancestors was East India Company figure William Farquhar. Her father was Scottish and her mother's ancestry included English, Scottish, Dutch, French, and a Malaysian 5 times great-grandparent. Trudeau attended Simon Fraser University where she studied English literature.

As an 18-year-old vacationing in Tahiti, she met Pierre Trudeau, who was then Minister of Justice. Ms. 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 himself, 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. This raised some eyebrows among Canadians because of the age difference (Trudeau was then 52), 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. 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." 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 tapestry in the prime minister's official residence in Ottawa because it celebrated "reason over passion".

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 and (according to Keith Richards's autobiography, Life) Mick Jagger.

Suffering from stress and bouts of bipolar depression, she separated from her husband in 1977 and became a much-talked-about jet-setter. 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 the country. This added to the Canadian public's growing unease about "what would happen next".

Life after divorce

The Trudeaus officially divorced in 1984, and a short time later Margaret married Ottawa real-estate developer Fried Kemper, with whom she had two children, son Kyle (born 1984) and daughter Alicia (born 1988). After her second marriage, Margaret virtually disappeared from the public eye.

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 her and Margaret suffered another major depressive episode that led to her second divorce.

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

On May 5, 2006, Margaret announced that she had been suffering from bipolar disorder. Since then, she has advocated the reduced stigma of mental illness — bipolar disorder in particular — with speaking engagements across North America. She is an honorary patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In 2007, Trudeau left Ottawa to live in Montreal to be closer to her sons, Justin and Alexandre.

She wrote Changing My Mind, a book about her personal experience having bipolar disorder, published by HarperCollins Canada in 2010.


  • L'Ange Gardien (1978)
  • Kings and Desperate Men (1981)


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