"Fairy tales don't happen, real life happens." -- Margaret (Sinclair, Trudeau) Kemper

Born as Margaret Sinclair in September of 1948, she burst into national prominence on March, 4 1971 when the so-called 'flower child' and daughter of West Vancouver's leading federal Liberal Party official James Sinclair, a former federal Fisheries Minister, wed 51-year-old Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in a private ceremony in Vancouver. The newlyweds took a skiing honeymoon in Whistler, B.C., with the world's media in tow.

Margaret Sinclair studied English literature at Simon Fraser University. At age 18 she was vacationing in Tahiti when she met Pierre Trudeau, then Minister of Justice, but she did not recognize him and this encounter was not particularly memorable for her. He nonetheless began to pursue her. Prior to their separation in 1977, she gave birth to three sons (Justin, Sacha and Michel). She resented her husband's prolonged absences and was often criticized for her free-spirited behaviour at some formal government events. "Tenderly, without realizing he was doing it, Trudeau set her inside a bell jar and cut her off from life," wrote Richard Gwynn in his Trudeau biography entitled The Northern Magus. It didn't help that she was suspected of having a romantic interlude with a U.S. Senator believed to be Ted Kennedy or that she wore a see-through t-shirt in Cuba. Intolerant of weakness, Pierre Trudeau was nonetheless compassionate about her bouts of depression. She spent her sixth anniversary with the Rolling Stones, having flown to Toronto and taken photos of them during their performance at the El Mocambo club. She was seen in Mick Jagger's limousine afterwards but emphatically denied having an affair with him. It turned out she had a tryst with Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood. The Daily Mirror in London proclaimed "Premier's Wife in Stones Scandal." After the public collapse of their marriage, she would be victimized by sensational headlines linking her to drugs and her trysts with actors Jack Nicholson and Ryan O'Neal. She tried to rebound with two volumes of memoirs, Beyond Reason (1979) and Consquences (1982), the first of which was timed to appear near the outset of the federal election campaign that Pierre Trudeau lost to Joe Clark and Conservative Party. Pierre Trudeau was re-elected to power in 1980, at which time the parents agreed to share custody of their children. The Trudeaus were divorced in 1984 but they increasingly set aside acrimony in order to work together constructively as parents. She had a brief career as a television host prior to marrying Ottawa real estate developer Fred Kemper, with whom she had two children.

Margaret Trudeau Kemper's links to British Columbia were tragically renewed in 1998 when her son Michel Trudeau died in an avalanche at Kokanee Lake, near Rossland. Margaret Kemper and Pierre Trudeau--as an old man--were seen hand-in-hand at Outremont's St. Viateur Church for Michel's funeral, reunited by grief. Margaret Kemper separated from her second husband Fred Kemper six months later, and rekindled her friendship with the ailing ex-Prime Minister. Fred Kemper died in 2000. She was at Pierre Trudeau's bedside when he died in the same year. Margaret Kemper became Honorary President of WaterCan, an Ottawa-based organization dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services. She later was invited to become a board member of the newly formed Institute of Mental Health at the University of British Columbia. [See below]

[Margaret and Pierre Trudeau with son Sacha at Vancouver International Airport, 1976]


Beyond Reason (Grosset & Dunlap, 1979)
Consequences (Bantam Books, 1982)

[BCBW 2004 / 2008] "Women"