LILLEY: Rumours will spread like an Ontario wildfire after Trudeau’s divorce

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“I thought it happened years ago.”

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That was the immediate reaction from a group of non-political people I was sitting with when the news broke that Justin Trudeau was separating from his wife, Sophie. The rumours that the couple had split, long denied, had become reality.

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It was such a persistent rumour, but it was just that, a rumour. Over the years, journalists had made polite inquiries about Trudeau and were told there was nothing to report.

“Marriage is difficult, for everyone,” is the most I ever heard several years ago from a senior Trudeau person.

They were right and anyone in a marriage, or who has gone through a divorce, knows that all too well and can relate. Most of us don’t have to put out public statements, though, on the status of our relationship, which is what Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau did shortly after noon on Wednesday.

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“Sophie and I would like to share the fact that after many meaningful and difficult conversations we have made the decision to separate,” Trudeau’s statement said before asking for privacy for the well-being of the children.

The children deserve that, they deserve respect and privacy but of course, they won’t get it. Sophie deserves her privacy, as well, but she will be haunted and hounded by even more rumours now that the split has happened.

In addition to rumours about their split, there will be rumours about what caused it, the persistent rumours that the PM is or has been involved with other people will go into overdrive. While we tend not to focus on these issues in Canadian media, that doesn’t mean they won’t show up on social media — the same place that the Trudeaus announced their split.

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Divorce and the break-up of a family is ugly enough on its own without people from the outside pushing their agendas by spreading rumours. Given Trudeau’s place in the public eye, it will happen nonetheless.

You can already see it in the comments below their respective announcements on the split.

There are legitimate questions to which Canadians will want answers, such as whether Sophie will be moving out of taxpayer-funded Rideau Cottage. When Justin’s parents separated while his father was still prime minister, his mother moved to a home not far from 24 Sussex Drive.

According to the CBC, which cited a source with knowledge of the arrangements, Sophie has moved to a nearby home in Ottawa, while the PM will remain at Rideau Cottage.

As reported earlier by Postmedia, a source confirmed that Sophie will no longer take on official duties or have government staff to manage her appearances.

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It’s likely that with the kids still in school, something similar will happen. These are details that will come out in due time.

For the most part, though, this is a personal matter and everyone, including our political elite, are still entitled to a personal life, to privacy.

As Warren Kinsella has written, leave the unelected ones out of this.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement posted to Instagram on Aug. 2, 2023 announcing his separation from wife Sophie.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement posted to Instagram on Aug. 2, 2023 announcing his separation from wife Sophie.

For the elected one, hold him accountable for his policies, for how he and his party govern, not for his personal life. Trudeau’s record as prime minister is coming close to eight years and there is more than enough to criticize him over without having to resort to snide remarks about his marriage, his separation, or his kids.

Play the ball, not the man, is how I was taught to play soccer. It’s a good rule of thumb for the rest of life, as well.

It’s especially important to remember at times like this.

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