In sweeping the Liberal Party back into government with Justin Trudeau as its standard bearer, Canada has ended a decade of Conservative rule, reversed years of shocking decline for the Liberal Party and created its first political dynasty.
While Trudeau, 43, has been alternately criticized as a pretty boy and celebrated as a youthful new voice in Canadian politics, compared with his rabble-rousing father the younger Trudeau is positively dull. A bachelor when he was elected Prime Minister at age 48, Pierre Trudeau became a legendary force in Canadian politics known for his intellectual vigor as much as for his bon vivant, take-no-prisoners lifestyle. Though Pierre passed away more than a decade ago, Justin remains extremely close with his mother Margaret Trudeau, who became a force of her own during her tumultuous 13-year marriage to Pierre.
Here are nine things to know about Justin Trudeau’s famous parents:
1. His dad was rich
Pierre Trudeau grew up in a wealthy family, the son of a multimillionaire. Before going into politics he was a law professor and a journalist and he traveled widely around the world. He was arrested in East Jerusalem on suspicion of being an Israeli spy, and in Yugoslavia for forging a visa.
2. Pierre was kind of a playboy
When elected to office in 1968 at age 48, Pierre was a bachelor who brought a Kennedy-esque flair to Canadian politics. With his informal style and throngs of adoring fans, not a few of whom were admiring young women, journalists took to calling his phenomenon Trudeaumania, echoing the Beatlemania that rocked North America in the 1960s.
3. He dated celebrities
Pierre was known as an intellectual who lived fast. He drove fast cars, practiced yoga, mountaineering and skiing when he could, wore colorful and casual clothes and dated beautiful women, among them Hollywood starlet Barbara Streisand.
4. Justin’s parents had a big age gap
Pierre met Margaret Sinclair while vacationing in Tahiti. She was 18 years old then — 30 years his younger — and 22 when they married in 1971.
5. Pierre helped stop Quebec from leaving the country
As a French Canadian fiercely opposed to Quebecois separatism, Pierre is considered by many to have saved Canada from breaking apart. He cracked down on separatist terrorists but championed bilingualism and inclusion for French-speaking Canadians.
6. Margaret Trudeau was kind of an activist
As a twentysomething and a Prime Minister’s wife, Margaret traveled widely and eschewed protocol. She ruffled feathers wearing an old campaign shirt of her husband’s while visiting Cuba, was vocal in her support of the women’s movement during a banquet in Mexico, and wrote and sang a song for the wife of the President of Venezuela. And that was all during one 11-day jaunt across Latin America, when she was just 27. “If you rely completely on protocol, you can become a robot,” she said at the time.
7. She also loved marijuana
Margaret was once charged with possession of marijuana for having a package of weed delivered to her home. “I took to marijuana like a duck took to water,” she later remarked of her affinity for pot.
8. Pierre pushed to decriminalize homosexuality
Pierre passed key controversial reforms to Canada’s criminal code, notably loosening strict regulations on abortion, implementing gun control and decriminalizing homosexuality. “Are we going to put all sin in the criminal code?” he asked his critics then. “If so, it would be a pretty thick book. The state has no business in the nation’s bedrooms.”
9. And he eventually grew up
Pierre’s star faded after a decade in office and he was tossed out in 1979, only to return as Prime Minister the next year. Pierre made a comeback but Trudeaumania did not. He was re-elected but this time in a campaign that favored pinstripe suits and a more sober, more mature tone.