Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, announced their separation on Wednesday, August 2. The pair had three children throughout their 18-year marriage. They announced the news on Instagram, writing, “We remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build.”
Justin Trudeau has been Canada’s Prime Minister since 2015. He grew up in the spotlight as the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Justin taught for several years after graduating from college before entering politics. In 2008, he was elected to the Canadian Parliament for the first time. Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party in 2013. Trudeau and his party earned an overwhelming victory in 2015, making him the country’s second youngest prime leader.
Early Life and Career
Justin Trudeau was born on December 25, 1971, in Ottawa, Canada, and has been involved in Canadian politics since his childhood. He is the eldest son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife, Margaret, and grew up at 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa’s prime minister’s house. In fact, during a Canadian state dinner with Trudeau’s father just months after his birth, American President Richard Nixon foretold his political future. According to BBC News, Nixon added, “I’d like to toast to the future Prime Minister of Canada: Justin Pierre Trudeau.”
In 1977, Trudeau’s parents divorced. Pierre went to Montreal with Justin and his younger brothers Alexandre, or “Sacha,” and Michel after their divorce was formalized in 1984. Justin attended the same Jesuit-run College Jean-de-Brebeuf as his father. He went on to study literature at McGill University, where he graduated with honors in 1994. During these years, he worked as a nightclub bouncer in British Columbia, a snowboard and white water rafting instructor, a radio host, and a math teacher, among other things.
Justin went on to study education at the University of British Columbia. He finished his degree in 1998, the same year his brother Michel died in an avalanche. Following his loss, Justin became interested in avalanche safety advocacy.
In 2000, he delivered his father’s eulogy during a nationally broadcast memorial service for the late Prime Minister. Trudeau’s impassioned speech thrilled many, but he resisted any idea that he would enter politics. Instead, he moved to Montreal and became the chair of the board of Katimavik, his father’s youth outreach program. Trudeau was also in high demand as a speaker, giving addresses to youth around the country about volunteerism.
Trudeau entered the political arena after years of avoiding it by chairing the Liberal Party’s task committee on youth rejuvenation in 2006. The next year, Trudeau launched his campaign for a seat in Parliament representing Montreal’s Papineau riding (district), which he won in 2008. In 2007, he also played famed soldier Talbot Papineau in the historical TV film The Great War.
Trudeau demonstrated his boxing skills in 2012, in addition to his acting abilities. He used to spar with his father as a kid, and it paid off when he beat conservative senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing bout. The charismatic, young Trudeau established himself as a rising political power after taking over as leader of the Liberal Party in 2013.
Trudeau ran for Canada’s top office two years later. In his campaign, he pledged “real change” to Canadian citizens, advocating for tax increases for the wealthiest and tax relief for the middle class. He also promised to defend abortion rights and to campaign for marijuana legalization in Canada. Trudeau, an outspoken environmentalist, has declared that he would work on the country’s climate change policies. His upbeat campaign contrasted sharply with his opponent Stephen Harper’s reelection campaign, which included repeated attacks on Trudeau.
Trudeau led his allies to a stunning win in October 2015, when the Liberal Party increased its majority in Parliament from 36 to 184 seats—the highest increase in the country’s history. He deposed Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who had been in office since 2006. According to the National Post, Trudeau declared in his victory address, “Canadians have spoken.” You want a government with a constructive, bold, and hopeful vision and plan for this country… Tonight, I pledge you that I will lead that government.”
Trudeau became Canada’s second youngest prime minister at the age of 43 when he was sworn in that November. (The first was Joe Clark, who took office on his 40th birthday in 1979). Trudeau was also the first confirmed prime leader with non-European ancestors, his sixth great grandmother being of Malay heritage.
In November 2015, Trudeau made news by appointing half of his cabinet to women, fulfilling a campaign promise to have a gender-balanced cabinet. When questioned why he felt compelled to do so, the self-proclaimed “proud feminist” simply stated, “Because it’s 2015.”
Oil Pipeline Controversy
Despite Trudeau’s appeal as a progressive, the opposition found its way to the youthful prime minister. Environmentalists, political allies, and Indigenous groups protested his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project in November 2016, a pipeline that allows oil sands from Alberta to be moved to a port in British Columbia, citing environmental and climatic harm. Trudeau dismissed this concept, claiming that his choice was based on research and would not harm the environment.
Relations with U.S. President Trump
Trudeau battled with Donald Trump when the latter was elected President of the United States in 2016, notably after Trump attempted to implement a travel ban the following year that appeared to target Muslim-majority countries. More bad emotions followed in 2018, when the Trump administration slapped steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron both condemned Trump’s actions, causing the US president to announce his intention to leave the June G-7 conference early.
After Trump left, Trudeau told reporters that Canada will impose retaliatory tariffs on July 1. “I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something we will absolutely do because Canadians are polite, reasonable, but we will not be bullied,” he said.
Alleged Prosecution Interference
Trudeau was embroiled in controversy after former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned in February 2019 over allegations of government meddling in a high-profile case. The prosecution of Montreal-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin, which was facing criminal charges for allegedly funneling money to the family of former Libya ruler Muammar al-Qaddafi, was at stake. Wilson-Raybould testified that the prime minister and top members of his government pressed her to avoid a trial and instead negotiate a deal with SNC Lavalin.
When a second cabinet minister quit in protest in early March, Trudeau held a press conference to justify his actions, stating that it was critical to advocate for the interests of a significant job creator while simultaneously upholding the rule of law. “Canadians expect us to do those two things at the same time, and that’s exactly what we will always do,” he said.
Nova Scotia Mass Shooting and Assault Weapons Ban
On the nights of April 18 and 19, 2020, a 51-year-old man went on a terror rampage, shooting up homes and lighting fires in multiple Nova Scotia communities, killing 22 people. On May 1, in response to what he called “the deadliest rampage in our country’s history,” Trudeau ordered a ban on 1,500 military-grade assault-style weapons. Despite the fact that the prohibition went into force immediately, the prime minister stated that gun owners will have a two-year grace period to comply with the legislation.
In September 2019, the prime minister was embroiled in a scandal after Time published an 18-year-old photo of Trudeau in brownface. The photo was taken during his time as a teacher at West Point Grey Academy, when he dressed up as Aladdin for the school’s “Arabian Nights”-themed banquet. Trudeau apologized, calling it “a stupid thing to do,” despite he acknowledged to donning blackface in high school for a performance of Harry Belafonte’s “The Banana Boat Song.” Soon after, further disturbing footage of Trudeau in blackface and an Afro wig from the early 1990s surfaced.
Wife and Children
In 2002, Trudeau met Sophie Grégoire, a Canadian TV and radio host. The couple married in May 2005, and they have three children: Xavier, Ella-Grace, and Hadrien.
Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau announced their divorce in August 2023, after 18 years of marriage.The pair has signed a legal separation agreement, according to Politico.
Trudeau wrote his memoir Common Ground in 2014, in which he discussed his experiences as a prime minister’s son.