At home with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his family

This story was originally published in October of 2014 in our sister publication, Chatelaine - one year before Justin Trudeau swept the federal election to become Prime Minister of Canada and claim a majority government for the Liberals. Here, a glimpse into the life of the Trudeau family!

Photo: Maude Chauvin

Inside the Trudeau house, it’s glorious chaos as the family prepares for a photo shoot. Xavier, Trudeau’s seven-year-old son, is slashing the air with a samurai sword. “A real one,” he pronounces (at a glance, that appears to be true). Ella-Grace, 5, is hauling Hadrien around the room under one arm. Their mother, Sophie Grégoire, is having her makeup done. “Why are your eyes so black, Mama?” Xavier asks. It’s mascara, she explains. He makes a face, and she grimaces back, twisting her hands into claws: “Pas de maquillage, pas de barrettes, pas de vêtements — c’est mieux.” Naked is best, she says. Even with a fresh layer of makeup on, she comes across as unvarnished and unscripted. An earnest, yoga-practising, whole-foods-eating earth mom, Grégoire is the sort of person who talks about growing vegetables in the backyard, then corrects herself and says that she doesn’t really grow them: Mother Nature does. She’s got a sticker on her Odyssey minivan that reads, Love Is the Answer.

But there’s an easy, self-deprecating wittiness to her too. Their stately, ivy-covered two-storey home hasn’t been staged for visitors or scoured of signs of life. The fridge is covered in photos: Grégoire in the bathtub with a baby; Xavier with Trudeau’s mother, Margaret; Grégoire and Trudeau in his father’s Mercedes-Benz convertible. And then there’s Grégoire’s magnet collection. One reads, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you realize they’re all frogs.” Another: “And by charming, I mean hung like a horse.”

Trudeau has disappeared for 20 minutes, but now he returns to the frenzy of the room, holding a wailing Hadrien. He’s been trying to put him down, but the baby won’t sleep. “Fâché, fâché, fâché,” he says ruefully. Someone whisks the baby away.

Photo: Maude Chauvin

Tucking her bare feet (mauve-painted toenails) under herself on a couch, Grégoire is calm, happy, unflappable in the midst of the swirling room, though she skips a beat when she hears that Trudeau’s been tossing the baby. She’s fine with the standing-kid stunt, she says, but she hadn’t heard about what he did for an encore: Lowering Hadrien to waist height, he’d flipped the infant on his side and spun him in the air, fast. The baby, gobsmacked, rolled like a crazily time-lapsed rotisserie chicken, executing a flawless 360 in mid-air.

“He did the roll?” she asks, eyebrows rising. “That’s new.” Her voice takes on a tone of faux menace. “Oooooh, Justin . . .” She pronounces his name the French way, accenting the second syllable of his name and letting it drag on with an exasperated sigh. She smiles as she does it. A former TV host, Grégoire also understands the power of the telegenic gesture. And she knows that this is their life now. Over the next year, every move of theirs will be minutely analyzed.

Ella-Grace is now on top of Xavier, giving him a noogie. The photographer calls the family to the couch, and they sit down dutifully, Grégoire and Xavier at one end, Trudeau and Ella-Grace at the other. Everyone argues over who gets to hold the baby (Trudeau wins). For a moment or two, they maintain their positions. Then Grégoire and Trudeau start vamping for the camera. He crosses his eyes, she gently nips Xavier’s arm. Xavier bites back. They pile on top of each other in a grinning, happy, highly photogenic mess.

Outside on the patio, Trudeau - sockless, cuffs undone, yes still impeccable in khakis and and a blue windowpane shirt - talks about why he's written a memoir.

"It's important that people understand who I am and where I come from," he says, "and not just have it shaped by purely political discourse."

Growing up, he says, the question he could never get away from was, "Are you going to go into politics?" Now that he has, the question he can't escape is: "How similar are you to your father?"

In interviews, and in his book, he's quick to differentiate between himself and the elder Trudeau.

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Click here to see exclusive photos of the Trudeaus at home.

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