Son of the late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau followed in his father’s famous footsteps in 2015, winning election as Canada’s prime minister.
Early life and career
Born on December 25, 1971, in Ottawa, Canada, Justin Trudeau was immersed in Canadian politics from the start. He is the oldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret and spent his early years at 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa. In fact, only months after his birth, American president Richard Nixon predicted his political future during a Canadian state dinner with Trudeau’s father. Nixon said, according to BBC news, “I’d like to toast to the future prime minister of Canada: To Justin Pierre Trudeau.”
Trudeau’s parents separated in 1977. After their divorce was finalized in 1984, Pierre moved to Montreal with Justin and his younger brothers Alexandre, or “Sacha,” and Michel. Justin attended the same school as his father, the Jesuit-run College Jean-de-Brebeuf. He went on to study literature at McGill University, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1994. Among many jobs he took on during these years included being a nightclub bouncer in British Columbia, a snowboard and white water rafting instructor, a radio host and math teacher. Justin would go on to pursue a degree in education at the University of British Columbia. He completed his degree in 1998—the same year that tragedy struck his family. His youngest brother Michel died in an avalanche. In the wake of this loss, Justin became involved in promoting avalanche safety.
In 2000, he delivered the eulogy for his father in a nationally televised service for the late prime minister. Trudeau impressed many with his eloquent speech, but he shied away from any suggestions that he’d enter politics. Instead he returned to Montreal and became the chair of the board of Katimavik, a youth service program created by his father. Trudeau also was in demand as a speaker, delivering talks across the country to youth on volunteerism.
After years of avoiding the political arena, Trudeau stepped into the fray in 2006 by chairing the Liberal Party’s task force on youth renewal. The following year, Trudeau began his campaign for a Parliament seat representing Montreal’s Papineau riding, or district, winning the post in 2008. He also appeared as legendary soldier Talbot Papineau in the historical TV movie The Great War in 2007.
In addition to having acting skills, Trudeau showed himself to be a skilled boxer in 2012. He had sparred with his father growing up, and that practice paid off when he defeated conservative senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match. The charismatic, young Trudeau also proved to be a rising political force, becoming the Liberal Party’s leader in 2013.
Two years later, Trudeau sought Canada’s highest office. He promised Canadian voters “real change” in his campaign, calling for tax increases for the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class. He also pledged to protect abortion rights and push through the legalization of marijuana in Canada. A committed environmentalist, Trudeau also stated that he would work on the country’s climate change policies. His positive campaign stood in sharp contrast to his opponent Stephen Harper’s re-election efforts, which included numerous attack ads on Trudeau.
Trudeau led his party to a remarkable victory in October 2015, which won the majority in Parliament, going from 36 seats to 184 seats — the largest increase in the country’s history. He unseated Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who had served as prime minister since 2006. In his victory speech, Trudeau said, according to the National Post, “Canadians have spoken. You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful… I promise you tonight that I will lead that government.” At 43 years old, Trudeau was the second youngest person to become prime minister of Canada — (the first being Joe Clark who had been sworn in as PM a day before his 40th birthday in 1979). Trudeau is also notable for being the first verified PM with non-European roots, his sixth great grandmother being of Malays descent.
In November 2015 Trudeau made headlines when he appointed half of his cabinet positions to women, honoring a campaign promise of having a gender-balanced cabinet. When asked why he felt the need to do this, the self-purported “proud feminist” simply replied: “Because it’s 2015.”
Trudeau married Canadian TV and radio host Sophie Grégoire in 2005. The couple has three children, Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien. In 2014, Trudeau published his memoir Common Ground, in which he shared his experiences as the son of a prime minister.
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