Trudeau’s mom on why “the kindest thing you can do is listen to people.”
By Jennifer Lee
Photography by Gilda Furgiuele
Margaret Trudeau is a proud mom. Her son Justin is a loving husband, a beloved father and the Prime Minister of our great country. As the woman who raised the boy that grew into the man now known as an international symbol of change, a protector of diversity and an upholder of unity, Margaret is a national matriarch with wisdom to pass on to Canada’s young leaders.
The emphatic value in her lessons is at the core of her take on the country. “I see Canada as being multicultural [and] very open,” she observes. “I don’t like the word ‘tolerant’ because that says you’re putting up with [something]; Canada is a compassionate country that wants to help.”
In her own life, volunteerism has been an enduring passion. “We are best when we’re a reflection in what we do with others and in being together,” she maintains. The proof is in her tireless work during the past decade, travelling across Canada as an advocate for mental health awareness. Her devotion to the cause stems from personal history and a determination to help others through the “extraordinary understanding” gleaned from her own experience. “You can get better from a mental illness,” she declares. “I’ve had the good fortune of having very bad fortune in my life and turning it around.”
Margaret holds up her life as a testament to an underlying truth in the battle against mental illness: you can’t fix yourself alone. By building awareness and encouraging open dialogue, she hopes people will seek help without fear of discrimination. Her goal is to “break the stigma, so people can understand that if they are suffering mental stress, they must reach out for third party help.”
This year, to mark the country’s 150th, Margaret is taking her work one step further in an effort to widen the conversation around mental illness. With a photographer and a tent in tow, she will be heading to northern Canada this summer to speak with communities afflicted by suicide. “I’m going to try and listen to the elders, to the mothers, to the sisters, to the community because I think the answer for these suicides is not in a mental health centre in the south,” suggests Margaret. “It’s in their culture, it’s in their wisdom, it’s in their beautiful knowledge of the extraordinary cycle of life that Indigenous people so value.”
Sharing stories from these communities is important to Margaret. “Pictures tell a thousand words about the beauty of these people,” she explains. “[In] their words, not mine.”
An enlightened and compassionate nurturer, Margaret is bettering Canada through honest conversation and open listening. Read on to learn why she believes “Canada has the potential to be the most peaceful and mediating country in the world.”
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
The movement, for me, is a continuation of the revolution that we started in the ‘60s, and Craig Kielburger said the same thing. It’s a beautiful evolved hippie movement that is inclusive and loving and kind and trying to educate and bring people in to understand that “me” is small; “we” is big and strong.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
The kindest thing that has ever happened to me was when I was doing my own water work in Africa. I was in Uganda, in a very poor village that we were bringing access to water and sanitation, and this old wise woman came up to me and gave me three fresh eggs in a very thin plastic bag. I knew that these eggs were the most precious thing in the world—they didn’t have enough food in the village; the women were almost starving. Being there to try to help this village, I got the biggest act of kindness given to me. Mind you, it was very difficult to go through the crowds, holding this little bag of eggs without breaking them!
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
More Justins, more Craigs, more Marcs! More people with forward thinking that have a human essence. If we can continue WE and can continue this idea of “it’s us together that is making the difference,” then we’ll have peace in the world.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada.
We have to understand how blessed we are in the world because of our extraordinary universal health care and our educational systems. We are in a wonderful, unique position of being healthy and educated. Canada has the potential to be the most peaceful and mediating country in the world. I think that’s one of the roles my son will play: mediating. And that’s what we need, we need to have a country that goes back to its roots of being very open.
As we work to make Canada a better country, what is one action you would like people to take?
Any time you have a negative thought about anyone, immediately in your mind find a good thing to think about that person. Everybody has worth and it’s terrible to be a bully and to be denigrating to other people. Try never to say mean things about other people—even if it’s very hard and their behaviour is not good, there is still worth in them. The kindest thing you can do is listen to people—find in them their good self and encourage it.