Justin Trudeau and his wife of 18 years, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, announced Wednesday that they have parted ways, making him the second Prime Minister to be legally separated while in office – after only his own father.
Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, who have been married since May, 2005, issued statements on their respective Instagram accounts to publicize the news, stating that the decision came after many difficult conversations. They said that they remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and everything that they have built. They also asked for privacy for the well-being of their three children.
As a result of their separation, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau will not be appearing as the spouse of the Prime Minister, such as at public functions or on international trips. In recent years, she has travelled less frequently with the Prime Minister both domestically and globally.
The announcement is taking place at a politically challenging time for the Prime Minister, who is now eight years into his tenure. The Liberals have been struggling in the polls and trying to fend off Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, who have made the cost of living a key issue.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Justin Trudeau and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau have worked to ensure “all legal and ethical steps with regards to their decision to separate have been taken, and will continue to do so moving forward.”
“Both parents will be a constant presence in their children’s lives and Canadians can expect to often see the family together,” the office said in a statement, adding that they plan to go on vacation together next week.
The Trudeaus are expected to co-parent their children. The Prime Minister will continue to live at Rideau Cottage, and his children will primarily live there to maintain stability. Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has secured a separate home in Ottawa. However, she will still spend time at Rideau Cottage with her children and stay there when Mr. Trudeau is travelling.
Mr. Trudeau’s father, the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, separated from his wife, Margaret, in 1977 while he was still in office. They divorced seven years later, in 1984, prior to his announcement that he was leaving politics that year.
Pollster Nik Nanos said Wednesday the announcement by the Trudeaus is a sad situation that many Canadians can understand and empathize with.
“Opposition should be very cautious in commenting on the separation of Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire,” said Mr. Nanos, the chief data scientist for Nanos Research.
“Of note, the news of the separation casts a different light on the recent cabinet shuffle since the new cabinet was likely constructed in a fashion for Trudeau to balance family responsibilities with his responsibilities as Prime Minister.”
Last week, Mr. Trudeau announced a significant overhaul of his cabinet, changing the portfolios or adding roles to the majority of ministers. He also brought in seven new faces and only eight members kept their current jobs. As he explained the changes, Mr. Trudeau promised a greater focus on the economy and housing for “millions of Canadians who are struggling” but he did not say he was retooling his front bench in response to internal political challenges.
The Trudeaus have three children together: Xavier, 15, Ella Grace, 14, and nine-year-old Hadrien. The couple knew each other as children but met again in 2003. Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Grégoire, a former entertainment journalist, were wed two years later.
In his time as Prime Minister, the couple have both made public remarks about some of the challenges they have faced in their marriage. For example, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau posted on Instagram for their May, 2022, wedding anniversary that they had navigated “sunny days, heavy storms and everything in between.”
In 2014, Mr. Trudeau told CBC that their marriage was not perfect and that they had had “difficult ups and downs” but that Sophie remained “my best friend, my partner, my love.” He also said that they were honest with each other “even when it hurts.”
Mr. Trudeau’s last public post about her was on their wedding anniversary in May. On Instagram, a photo of himself and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau was shared where they were holding hands, stating: “Every mile of this journey together is an adventure. I love you, Soph.”
Over the course of Mr. Trudeau’s political career, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has played a role. For example, she has her own page on the party’s website and has been a guest speaker at Liberal events.
Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal staffer and principal at KAN Strategies, said Wednesday that the biggest change for the Prime Minister now will be logistically for his family’s life – one that a lot of Canadians can “understand and empathize with.”
Any family who has gone through this will understand what it means in terms of the impacts and challenges and “trying to get through something like this,” he said.
Sharan Kaur, a political strategist who was deputy chief of staff to former federal finance minister Bill Morneau, said the Trudeaus’ personal matter should not be used for partisan gain.
“I think that we all need to put politics a bit aside on this one, specifically because children are involved,” she said. “This is not a time to turn this into political rhetoric, and we should give them the time and space that they need.”
Mr. Trudeau is a child of divorce, writing in his 2014 memoir Common Ground that the breakup of the marriage of his parents left him with “a sense of diminished self worth.”
Justin Trudeau wrote of using Archie comics, then novels to deal with the turmoil at home. “Escaping into the printed page was one of the few ways I had to block out the dark drama in my parents’ marriage,” he wrote.
Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has two new books coming out from Canada’s largest publisher. She has a deal with Penguin Random House Canada to write what the publisher has described as an inspirational self-discovery and wellness book for publication in spring, 2024, as well as a picture book to be published in 2025.
Mr. Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015 with a sweeping majority mandate. In 2019 and 2021, the Liberals were re-elected with minority mandates. Mr. Trudeau insists that he plans to take his party into a forthcoming federal election but one is not expected before 2025 due to an agreement in place with the New Democratic Party.
KRISTY KIRKUP, IAN BAILEY AND LAURA STONE
The Globe and Mail, August 2, 2023