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Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau announce separation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, have decided to separate, according to statements posted online by both of them.

Prime minister and Grégoire Trudeau have been married for 18 years

A man and a woman stand on a stairway outside the entrance to an airplane and wave.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, have decided to separate, according to statements posted online by both of them.

"Sophie and I would like to share the fact that after many meaningful and difficult conversations, we have made the decision to separate," Trudeau wrote in a message posted to his Instagram account.

Trudeau, 51, and Grégoire, 48, were married in May 2005 and have three children together: two sons, Xavier, 15, and Hadrien, nine, and one daughter, 14-year-old Ella-Grace.

"As always, we remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build," Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau wrote in identical messages. "For the well-being of our children, we ask that you respect our and their privacy."

A prominent presence

Grégoire, a former television presenter, has been a prominent presence at Trudeau's side throughout his political career and become a public figure in her own right as an advocate for several charitable and social causes, including mental health and gender equality.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau have "signed a legal separation agreement."

"They have worked to ensure that all legal and ethical steps with regards to their decision to separate have been taken, and will continue to do so moving forward," Trudeau's office said.

"They remain a close family and Sophie and the Prime Minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment. Both parents will be a constant presence in their children's lives and Canadians can expect to often see the family together. The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week."

Trudeau's parents — former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau — famously separated in 1977.

As recounted in his autobiography, Common Ground, Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau began dating in 2003. Grégoire Trudeau, the daughter of a stockbroker and a nurse, was a former schoolmate of Trudeau's late brother, Michel.

The couple became engaged in 2004 and married each other a year later during a ceremony at Montreal's Sainte-Madeleine d'Outremont church — "by Canadian standards, a sweet and appropriately understated fairy-tale wedding," was how a writer for Maclean's described it.

'Our marriage isn't perfect'

Both Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau spoke at times candidly about their relationship and the challenges of marriage.

"Our marriage isn't perfect, and we have had difficult ups and downs, yet Sophie remains my best friend, my partner, my love," Trudeau wrote in Common Ground, which was published in 2014.

Grégoire Trudeau told an interviewer in 2015 that "no marriage is easy."

"I'm almost kind of proud of the fact that we've had hardship, yes, because we want authenticity. We want truth," she said. "We want to grow closer as individuals through our lifetime and we're both dreamers and we want to be together for as long as we can."

Trudeau launched his political career in 2007, when he decided to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Montreal riding of Papineau. After winning there in 2008 and 2011, Trudeau began to consider seeking the Liberal leadership. The decision, he wrote, would ultimately come down to "a deeply personal private discussion between Sophie and me."

"We had many long, honest talks that summer," Trudeau recalled. "I wanted to be sure she knew, from my own experience, just how rough that life can be. I recalled for Sophie that my father had once told me I should never feel compelled to run for office. 'Our family has done enough,' he said."

His father said that, Trudeau noted, "despite having never experienced the incessant, base vitriol of twenty-first-century politics."

"I welcome a good tussle, and my skin is thick, but I had grown up in the reality of public life," Trudeau wrote. "Sophie had not, and our decision would affect our kids, in some ways, more than either of us."

In an interview in 2008, Grégoire Trudeau said that when she met Trudeau, "politics was not impossible, but it was not in the short-term or the mid-term plan."

"But an opportunity came up, and we felt that if we weren't going to embark on this adventure, a part of us would be selfish with the voice that we have and the opportunities that are given to us," she said.

Personal lives generally private matters

In Common Ground, Trudeau credits Grégoire Trudeau with "profoundly" influencing his style of politics and for helping keep him grounded.

"Sometimes it's easy for people who have made politics their livelihood to get caught up in the heat of battle and forget about their personal values. Sophie never does, and no matter how intense things get, she makes sure I don't either," Trudeau wrote.

The personal lives of prime ministers are generally treated as private matters. But Pierre Trudeau's relationship with Margaret Sinclair — including their marriage in 1971 and their separation in 1977 was highly publicized. Trudeau was the first prime minister to get married while in office and also the first to publicly separate from his partner. Margaret Trudeau later disclosed her long struggle with mental illness.

Justin Trudeau, who was born nine months after his parents wed, experienced their divorce as a young child and he wrote at length about those years in Common Ground. Trudeau said that much of what was written about his parent's relationship was "lurid and inaccurate."

"From my perspective today, the commonly held story of my parents' marital breakdown is nothing but a caricature, because my father was not just the tradition-bound diehard he appeared and my mother was not entirely the totally free spirit that her actions suggest," Trudeau wrote.

"Things are never that simple, especially with a couple as complex as my parents, and I remain amused by and exasperated with those who view their relationship — all the passion, triumph, achievements, and tragedy — in black and white, seeing it merely as a flawed union between a cool and aloof man and an exuberant and uninhibited younger woman. It was that, but also much more."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Wherry

Senior writer

Aaron Wherry has covered Parliament Hill since 2007 and has written for Maclean's, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He is the author of Promise & Peril, a book about Justin Trudeau's years in power.

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