The quiet evolution of Sophie Gregoire (aka Mme Justin Trudeau)

Sep 25th, 2005 | By | Category: Entertainment

The counterweights editors have their own reasons to appreciate the rising power in the name of Sophie Gregoire. According to the always interesting user statistics, our very slight references to her elsewhere on this site have won more attention than many other more weighty probes.

Ms. Gregorie’s potential has of course been noted in other quarters as well, with the news of her growing TV career, in the wake of her storybook marriage to Justin Trudeau this past spring.

Now journalist Sarah Hampson has interviewed this “poised, self-possessed, funny and spirited” 30-year-old bride from Montreal, and reported on many fresh details, in the September 24 issue of the Globe and Mail. In the process Ms. Hampson has also given the huddled masses in the diverse regions of anglophone Canada our first extended look at what may or may not be the “girl-next-door … fresh-as-a-peach” inspiration for a second Trudeau generation in Canadian politics.

If this ever does happen, Sophie Gregoire herself reports, “it’s not going to be now. It’s not going to be for a long time.” Yet it is already intriguing that “she and Trudeau allowed a photographer to sell exclusive rights to their wedding day to Maclean’s and 7 Jours … with no reported financial gain for the couple.” This was because “ever since I’ve met Justin, each time we’ve been seeing people on the street … they have been so amazing to us. And I thought the least we can do is share this kind of day with them.”

The dynasty syndrome in democratic politics …

Even the 21st century democratic DNA still seems to nestle some more primordial urge to identify with families in the always difficult quest for meaningful popular political leadership. The history of assorted local, regional, and federal jurisdictions in modern North America is replete with stories of family political dynasties.

Right now of course US President George W. Bush is the son of former President George H.W. Bush. And Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin Jr. is the son of defeated Liberal leadership candidate and long-serving cabinet minister Paul Martin Sr.

Still more to the point in the case of Sophie and Justin Trudeau, some would say, Senator Edward Kennedy, who still holds a serviceable torch for an earlier more triumphant liberalism in the USA, is the brother of former President John F. Kennedy (whose other living brother Robert was also assassinated while running for president in 1968).

So it could be said that Ms. Gregoire is ultimately interesting to many Canadians today partly because of her own attractive and winning personality – but also partly because her marriage to Justin Trudeau does seem to vaguely suggest that whatever magic Pierre Trudeau may or may not have once scattered across his home and native land could somehow appear again .

If you think whatever magic Trudeau did have was pernicious in its consequences at best, the prospect of its descending upon the land yet again will not appeal to you. And there are still many in both the rest of Canada and perhaps especially in Quebec who do feel that way.

Now, more than 20 years since Pierre Trudeau resigned from office as Prime Minister of Canada, in the fabled Orwellian year of 1984, the extent to which his real understanding of Canada on the ground was too much modelled on his (and Sophie Gregoire’s) native city of Montreal is also clearer than ever.

Yet if you believe as well that Pierre Trudeau was, whatever else, the most interesting prime minister Canada has ever had, before or since, the prospect that something of his magic might some day return can be attractive enough – even if it is “not going to be for a long time.”

(And reading Sarah Hampson’s report on her interview in the September 24 Globe and Mail, it does seem quite possible that Pierre Trudeau would be pleased by his eldest son’s marriage to Sophie Gregoire – from any of several different points of view. Including the prospect of a Trudeau II in Canadian federal politics. And even if some do say that it is Alexandre, aka Sacha, who is the real son of Pierre Trudeau to watch.)

A few highlights from Sarah Hampson’s report …

The best way of learning from Sarah Hampson’s report is to read it yourself. But here are a few especially striking highlights:

Part of Sophie Gregoire’s current appeal does just have to do with her own attractive and winning personality. She is “Canada’s answer to a Jennifer Aniston type – a sweetheart personality who immediately makes you feel as though you could be her best friend, sharing in the story of her life.”

Sophie is the “only child of a Montreal stockbroker and a former nurse … educated at McGill University in commerce and at the University of Montreal, where she studied communications.”

Ms. Gregoire first met Justin Trudeau “about 20 years ago,” when she “went to school with Michel [the youngest Trudeau son who was killed in an avalanche in 1998].” But the present- day romance which led to their May 2005 wedding did not blossom until 2003.

On their first big date Sophie and Justin talked “always in French.” And as Ms. Gregoire herself puts it: “He is so happy he ended up with someone who speaks French, because his father always used to say, ‘Tu es plus elegant en français.'”

Ms. Hampson ends her piece with: “Drink this young woman up, Canada. Poised, self-possessed, funny and spirited, she has a lot in front of her. I do think I’m prone to happiness,’ she confides near the end of the interview. That is the one thing she didn’t need to say.”

For an update on Sophie’s latest adventures see our May 2007 counterweights report on “Margaret and Sophie in Ethiopia.”

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