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Margaret Joan Sinclair Trudeau Kemper (born September 10, 1948) is the former wife of the late Pierre Trudeau, the 15th Prime Minister of Canada.

Early years and marriage

Trudeau was born Margaret Joan Sinclair in Vancouvermarker, British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker, the daughter of Doris Kathleen (née Bernard) and James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canadamarker and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. One of her maternal ancestors was East India Company figure William Farquhar. Trudeau attended Simon Fraser Universitymarker where she studied English literature.

As an 18-year-old vacationing in Tahitimarker, 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. As Trudeau was a Catholic, she converted to Roman Catholicism for their marriage.

Trudeau was still a bachelor when elected prime minister in 1968. After keeping their romance private, the Prime Minister astonished the country by marrying the 22-year-old Sinclair on March 4, 1971, in a private ceremony. This raised some eyebrows among Canadians because of the age difference, but it was considered typical behaviour for a vivacious prime minister who prided himself on his "progressive" views and youthful vigour. Asked about her role in a marriage to the most famous man in the country, Margaret Trudeau said, "I want to be more than a rose in my husband's lapel."

The couple had three children: Justin (born December 25, 1971), Alexandre (Sacha) (born December 25, 1973), and Michel (October 2, 1975 – November 13, 1998).

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 54marker, 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. 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.

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.

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 54marker nightclub in New York Citymarker. A photo of her there was featured on many front pages across the country. She was also associated with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. 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, Kyle and Alicia. After her second marriage, Margaret virtually disappeared from the public eye.

In November 1998, the Trudeau's youngest son Michel, an avid outdoorsman, was killed when an avalanche swept him to the bottom of British Columbiamarker's Kokanee Lake. The loss of her son was devastating for her and Margaret suffered another mental breakdown that led to her second divorce.

When Pierre Trudeau died in 2000, Margaret was at his bedside. 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.

She was stopped by police on May 30, 2004, and charged with impaired driving and driving with over 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The impaired driving charge was not pursued at trial and she was later acquitted of the second charge by a judge who ruled that her rights had been violated by police who had no grounds to pull her over and denied her the right to counsel. She praised the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which had been enacted by Pierre Trudeau, for her success. The Crown's appeal from this decision was denied.

On May 5, 2006, Margaret announced that she had been suffering from bipolar disorder. Since then, she has advocated for reduced stigma of mental illness — bipolar disorder in particular — with speaking engagements across North America.

She is planning to write a book about her personal experience having bipolar disorder, to be published by HarperCollins Canada in 2010.


  • Trudeau, M. (1982), Consequences, Bantam Books, ISBN 0553017128
  • Trudeau, M. (1979), Beyond Reason, Grosset & Dunlap, ISBN 0-448-23037-2


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