Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, wife, Sophie, announce separation

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TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, said Wednesday that they are separating after 18 years of marriage, a relationship that drew an unusual level of attention at home and abroad for a Canadian head of government.

“After many meaningful and difficult conversations, we have made the decision to separate,” they said in separate but identical statements on social media. “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.”

Justin, 51, and Sophie, a 48-year-old former radio and television personality who advocates for gender equality and mental health, have children ages 15, 14 and 9. The couple have released photos of their young family but had appeared together in public less often recently.

The prime minister’s office said they have signed a legal separation agreement and that the family will vacation together next week.

“They remain a close family and Sophie and the Prime Minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment,” the office said in a statement. “Both parents will be a constant presence in their children’s lives and Canadians can expect to often see the family together.”

Justin Trudeau met his future wife at a charity gala that they co-hosted in 2003. In his 2014 memoir “Common Ground,” which he dedicated to her, he wrote that they spent the evening flirting and realized Sophie attended school with his younger brother Michel, who died in an avalanche while skiing in British Columbia in 1998.

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Days later, Sophie sent him an email, but, he wrote, he was “too chicken to reply,” having “already sensed that this was no ordinary encounter and no ordinary woman, and even just meeting for coffee would likely escalate into the rest of my life.”

When the pair met by chance months later, they arranged a date. They followed dinner with karaoke and an hours-long chat at Trudeau’s apartment. He wrote that he told her, “I’m 31 years old, so I’ve been waiting for you for 31 years,” and proposed they “skip the boyfriend/girlfriend part and go straight to engaged” since they’d spend their lives together anyway.

The pair were married in Montreal in 2005.

Unlike first spouses in the United States, the partners of prime ministers in Canada do not have official titles, formal responsibilities or large staffs. When Sophie asked for more help after her husband’s election in 2015, she drew a backlash.

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Many spouses fly below the radar. But Justin and Sophie were no typical political power couple.

When the Trudeaus visited Washington in 2016, Michelle Obama called Sophie her “soul mate.” Shortly after Justin became prime minister in 2015, the couple appeared in the pages of Vogue, gazing into each other’s eyes and embracing in photos that drew comparisons to those on the covers of Harlequin romance novels.

(They later poked fun at the photo shoot in a bit at the Press Gallery Dinner.)

The Vogue article celebrated Justin Trudeau as the “new young face of Canadian politics.”

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Eight years later, he is no longer a fresh, new face. He is the longest-serving of the Group of Seven leaders. His majority Liberal government has been reduced to a minority and currently lags the opposition Conservatives in the polls. He announced a shake-up of his cabinet last week, but some moves drew criticism, including from members of his own party.

The separation of a Canadian prime minister is unusual but not unprecedented: Justin Trudeau’s parents, Pierre and Margaret, separated in 1977 and divorced in 1984. While the relationships of political figures here are largely not the subject of breathless media coverage, their marriage — and its dissolution — was frequently fodder for the headlines.

In “Common Ground,” which was published before Justin swept to power in 2015, he wrote that he was “shaped” by the breakup of his parents. They made every effort to “minimize the pain and sense of loss,” he wrote, but he still felt “a sense of diminished self-worth.” When his parents argued, he wrote, he retreated into the world of Archie comics.

“I knew, even then, that the demands imposed by the life my parents were leading affected them far more than the ordinary stress of parenthood,” he wrote.

The couple have spoken about the strains that a life in the spotlight and in politics can put on a marriage. In “Common Ground,” Justin wrote that he sought Sophie’s blessing before running for elected office. He knew from childhood “how tough politics can be on families and relationships,” he wrote, but it was a “different matter living it as a father and husband.”

correction

An earlier version of this article misreported the year in which Justin Trudeau’s brother Michel died. Michel Trudeau died in 1998, not 1988. The article has been corrected.

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