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Margaret Trudeau is solo, sane, 60 – and irrepressible as ever

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She thinks that one reason it took so long for her to realize her condition is that her childhood in Vancouver – as one of four daughters of former Liberal fisheries minister James Sinclair and his wife, Kathleen – was so calm that it never triggered an episode. “I didn't think I had any problems.”

She barrelled into adolescence and the 1960s era of love and drugs. “For me, smoking marijuana was the easiest thing I could have done,” she says unapologetically. “Especially since I didn't like the alcohol I was being given – Baby Duck and Kelowna Red,” she adds, screwing up her nose.

“Unfortunately, major studies have shown that people who are bipolar, who have a high range of emotion, can be triggered into mania with the use of cannabis.”

Her mental health was restored with medication, music, art, a good diet, exercise, vitamins and “the satisfying philosophy of Buddhism that allows you to live very, very contentedly and peacefully and delightfully in the present. ... Your wisdom is to leave behind jealousy, fear and regret.”

She meditates daily, runs, bikes and drinks in moderation. (Her acquittal on a drunk-driving charge in 2004 was upheld against a Crown appeal last year.) She has also taken up painting.

In 2007, she moved to Montreal to be near family: Justin, now a Liberal MP, and filmmaker and writer Alexandre each have two children. (Her 20-year-old daughter, Alicia Kemper, is a student there at Concordia University while her son Kyle, 23, works in high technology in Ottawa.)

“There is nothing so wonderful in the world as grandchildren. They love you so much … [but] they are not your responsibility. And I think part of postpartum depression was my foot was nailed with a huge stake right into terra firma with the births of my children.”

She is proud of Justin in his political role. “He loves what he is doing. He is excited and motivated and is working hard.” Does she give him and his wife, Sophie Grégoire, any pointers on life in the political spotlight? “Only if they ask – which they don't.”

Keeping house

Living alone also has been a revelation. “I respect myself. I love myself. I love living alone. It's all new to me. ... For my mental health, I do believe I must always live alone. I shall never marry again, unless he is so extra-remarkable I couldn't be away from breathing his very exhalations of breath.

“I still long for and occasionally delight in a little bit of romance,” she adds playfully. “I am absolutely open to romance, absolutely open to being swept off my feet, but it will take quite a wind. I'm planted very nicely. I'm self-sufficient. I pay my taxes. I make a good living. I do charity work.

“If I ever were to marry again – a true marriage, a true partnership – we would have to have our own homes. Some people say they have to have their own bathrooms. Well, for me, maybe our own provinces, maybe our own countries.”

She adds unequivocally, “I'm not afraid of being alone. I am surrounded by love, family and friends.”

Work is another salvation. “If you don't work, you don't have purpose and you don't love yourself,” she observes. Being a mother is meaningful and so is volunteering, but her own experience, especially after her divorce from Mr. Trudeau, showed her the value of paid work. He did not pay spousal support.

“That was my choice,” she says. “Well, he made me see the wisdom in it. I was raised by a Scottish father and he was raised by a Scottish mother,” and they shared the WASP ethos that “we don't live on other people's money. We make our own if we are strong, healthy, educated people.”

The delightfully quirky Maggie whose life Canadians have followed for nearly 40 years is back in the spotlight, but on her own terms – guarded and wary at times, but also high-spirited and confident.

“I [have] felt discriminated against,” she explains. “I have felt that I've been made the butt of too many glib, pseudo-intellectual jokes. I've been neglected and abused and stomped on. I [also] have been adored and loved. I have had standing ovations.”

She shrugs. “That's what happens to everybody.”

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