The daughter of James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and fisheries minister, she attended Simon Fraser University where she obtained a degree in English literature. As an 18-year-old on vacation 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" and would begin to pursue her.
Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000) was still a bachelor when elected Prime Minister of Canada in 1968. After keeping their dating from the press, to the shock of the nation, the Prime Minister married the 22-year-old Sinclair on March 4, 1971 in a private ceremony. This raised some eyebrows among conservative Canadians because of their thirty year age difference, but it was considered typical behavior for a prime minister who prided himself on his "progressive" views and youthful vigor. When 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."
In December of 1971, the Trudeaus had their first child, Justin. In 1973 they had a second son, Alexandre (Sacha), and in 1975, Michel. Both Justin and Sacha were born on Christmas day.
Though the couple initially appeared to have a very close and loving relationship, the marriage began to fall apart. Margaret resented Trudeau's constant work-related absences, and was forced to raise the three young children largely by herself. Beyond the normal extensive publicity that her high-profile position brought, on a few instances she made her own headlines. On one occasion she was criticized for not wearing a floor-length dress to an official White House dinner, and on another occasion she acted as Cuban president Fidel Castro's photographer-for-a-day. It has been reported that she once launched into an impromptu poetry recital during a state dinner with the President of Venezuela. Over time, the marriage disintegrated to the point that, as recounted in her book, Margaret had an affair with a U.S. Senator, believed by many to be Ted Kennedy who had visited the Trudeaus in Ottawa.
Suffering from bouts of depression and under severe emotional stress, she separated from her husband in 1977 and a single Margaret Trudeau 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 was voted out of office, Margaret was dancing at Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. A photo of this was featured on many front pages across the country. She was also associated with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. A lover of the poetry of William Blake, she used her public prominence to author two books.
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. After her second marriage, Margaret virtually disappeared from the public eye.
Despite their divorce, and even frequent bickering that got into the press, Margaret and Pierre Trudeau made the children their priority. Tragically, in November of 1998, their youngest son Michel, an avid outdoorsman, was killed after an avalanche swept him to the bottom of British Columbia's Kokanee Lake. The loss of her son was devastating for the vulnerable mother and Margaret suffered another mental breakdown that led to her second divorce.
Despite everything, Pierre Trudeau was the love of her life and when he passed away 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.
See also: Spouses of the Prime Ministers of Canada