Margaret Trudeau’s one woman show is full of surprises
My boss called me at 11am on Saturday. “Wilson, you’re going to Chicago!” Margaret Trudeau, the mother of our Prime Minister, was performing a stand-up comedy set. And since I’m the liberal, culture guy in the office, there really was no choice.
Upon arrival, I went straight to The Second City venue. I had just missed the Saturday night performance where Justin Trudeau was in attendance. I asked some friendly people about the show. No one seemed to know about it. Comedy is a young person’s game, so it was not surprising to discover that kids with hipster Ghostbusters sweaters had zero awareness or interest in the fact that a major world leader’s mother was performing in their regular hangout. It was clear that Trudeau fever had not yet gripped Chicago.
One of the first things that struck me at The Second City was how loyal the venue is to its legacy. Its legacy is inextricably linked to Canada. Episodes of SCTV play on a loop in the bar adjacent to the theatre. Count Floyd, Bobby Bittman, Pirini Scleroso and Johnny La Rue on mute, as a reminder of past greatness while the aspiring comics mingled. I had a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons and then headed to my hotel to do some reading before the Sunday afternoon show.
The next day, I was anxious. Cold sweats. Despite my liberal leanings, I have recently become disillusioned with our current Prime Minister and his policies. I kept having to remind myself that this was not about him or his government.
There was political anxiety in the queue for the show as well. An older couple engaged a middle-aged Canadian couple in line. “What do you people think of us? Trump is a travesty. Trudeau is handsome. I mean, I could be his mother, but he is handsome. And he came out against Trump you know? I like that he cries. Real men cry.”
The two couples then googled images of Trudeau crying on their phones. The Canadian couple explained the SNC-Lavalin affair to the elderly Americans as a “minor scandal” that the opposition Conservatives have taken advantage of. It’s always fascinating to eavesdrop on political chatter, even more so given the proximity.
Despite all of the turmoil that Prime Minister Trudeau has gone through over the last year, he remains a dreamy, aspirational figure to this audience which I would estimate averaged out at around 65-70 years of age. We were herded into our seats and that where I met Ellie.
She began talking to me almost immediately, patting my knee. “I’m from Iowa, and I’m always cold. I will use you for heat,” she said as she snuggled up. She would not tell me her age, but she was at least ten years older than Margaret Trudeau. She had been brought to the show by her 60-something son, and despite her kindness and warmth, I could tell she was not as thrilled to be there as the rest of her family. Ellie was drinking a full pint of beer at a remarkable pace and she held my arm and said, “I know I’m old enough to be your grandmother, but may I buy you a drink?” I accepted and Ellie got a second pint for herself.
Margaret Trudeau took the stage at 4pm on Mother’s Day.
She came bounding out energetically in a white button down blouse, blue jeans and sparkly red shoes. She read from a script (the show is still being workshopped).
I did not know what to expect, but I was admittedly skeptical of the whole spectacle. Comedy is an art form and those who dedicate their entire life still struggle to do it well.
Thankfully, it wasn’t really a comedy set. There were moments of laughter, sure, but it’s more accurate to refer to Certain Woman of an Age as an autobiographical one woman show.
Old photos flashed on the screen as she regaled the very warm audience with tales of shopping, romancing, and kibitzing with the most historically significant people of our time.
There were revelations that were worth more than the price of admission. Pierre Trudeau was a feminist as long as you weren’t married to him, Trudeau said. She was stifled by his rules and his old school, frugal ways. He would throw out the copies of Ms. magazine that Gloria Steinem would send to Sussex. As for her own feminism, Trudeau claimed that she was, for most of her life, an accidental feminist. One standout anecdote was about how she had inadvertently “insulted” the First Lady by wearing too short of a dress during a presidential visit. The next day after the scandalous headlines, Hollywood’s leading ladies like Elizabeth Taylor joined in solidarity with Trudeau by lifting their hems.
From what I could glean, Trudeau is a Steinem-style feminist. There was no talk of #MeToo, but plenty of talk about women being resilient and empowered. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps? Yes. Pearl-clutching on the fainting couch? Not so much. Indeed, one of the primary metaphors of the show was the perennial flower. Women, Trudeau argued, are perennials—seemingly fragile but in fact, strong and capable of bouncing back again and again. She briefly led the woman in the audience in a chant of “F*ck you!” in order to celebrate the defiant advances of women over her lifetime.
She escaped her marriage to Pierre and had whirlwind romances with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones (dispelling the rumour that it was Mick she fancied), Ted Kennedy, Ryan O’Neal, and Jack Nicholson (who then shunned her for Angelica Huston). She spent time in psych wards, dealing with her bipolar disorder. She bought tens of thousands of dresses, was dissed by the Pope, blessed by the Dalai Lama, propped up by the Queen when she almost had a curtsying mishap.
She revealed, too, that Fidel Castro stopped her from joining Justin at Pierre’s coffin during that iconic moment from the funeral. Castro put his hand on her shoulder and said, “He’s a man.”
In the emotional apex of the show, she dealt with the grief of losing her son, Michel in a tragic skiing accident when he was just 23.
She recalled the last time she saw him, he drove away in his Ford Bronco, only to stop a few houses down to come running back to sweep her into his arms and twirl her while saying “I love you!”
It was good storytelling. The way Trudeau spoke of Michel and her grief, hit all the right details and had a raw emotionality was truly touching, and many were brought to tears. I must confess that I had a little something in my eye. Real men cry. Ellie, my lovely neighbour did not. She seemed quite perturbed, but it may have been the result of her son cutting her off after two pints. I never caught his name. Maybe it was Pierre.
I noticed a young woman in tears directly in front of Ellie. She seemed particularly moved by much of the show. I noted her at the time because the audience was largely elderly.
By the end of the show, Trudeau had transformed the “F*ck you!” chant into a “Love you!” chant, and the audience happily obliged. Trudeau reiterated her message about mental health awareness, practising self-care and seeking treatment when necessary, and then it was over.
Ellie smiled her warm smile at me and held my arm again. It was genuinely hard for me to not follow her home and ask to hear some of her stories.
The young woman in front of Ellie darted up onstage to embrace Trudeau. It was her daughter, Alicia Kemper. When she returned to her seat, tears still in her eyes, she said, “I love her so much.”
Ellie said, “Good work.”
I said, “Congratulations.”
Alicia said, “Thank you,” and went backstage to join her mother.
Ellie lingered and talked to me for a while as her son tried to get her to leave. We eventually hugged and said goodbye. I felt genuinely lucky to have experienced the show with her.
As I left the venue and walked through Old Town, I reflected upon the genuine human experience I had just witnessed. Margaret Trudeau is no Chris Rock, but she’s no Hannah Gadsby either. That is to say, she’s a remarkable woman with one hell of a story to tell.
Staff in Justin Trudeau’s Prime Minister’s Office decided to conduct governmental business using a private Gmail account, sparking outcries from the Office of the Information Commissioner, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
The member of staff to blame was Trudeau’s senior speechwriter Gabrielle Cesvet, who describes herself as an “annoyingly proud Montrealer.”
It subsequently turns out that she may also be an annoyingly reckless staffer, as she broke a “public duty” outlined by the Information Commissioner: namely, the “retention of all emails that are records of business value.”
She did this by inviting CVs to her personal Gmail account through twitter. On Jan. 10, Cesvet tweeted “The Prime Minister’s Office is looking to hire a new English or bilingual speechwriter! Candidates should be good writers, hard workers and team players. If you’re interested, message me.”
After a tsunami of emails, Cesvet then concluded that using her private email may be easier, tweeting “I’m having trouble answering everyone, so new plan! If you are interested, email me your CV, writing sample and cover letter to [email protected]”
By using a Gmail account for governmental business, Cesvet essentially made it inaccessible to the Canadian public. Freedom of information requests cannot be conducted on private Gmail accounts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the Canadians killed by an Iranian missile causing the downing of a passenger flight would still be alive if it weren’t for building tensions in Iran.
“If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” said Trudeau in his interview with Dawna Friesen.
“This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it and it is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on de-escalation, moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involve further conflict and killing.”
Many have been displeased by Trudeau’s failure directly blame the Iranian regime. “There are a half-million Syrians who’d join you in calling for a “de-escalation of tensions in the region” but they’re dead & their killers are still on the loose, still killing innocent Syrians, Iranians & Iraqis, every day. What you’re saying, @JustinTrudeau, is ‘war is peace,'” journalist Terry Glavin tweeted.
Trudeau’s comments come days before a London meeting hosted by Canada wherein members of the international Coordination and Response Group will prepare a plan for getting answers regarding black box data from the flights.
Prime Minister Trudeau recently did not rule out assigning blame to the Trump administration for the Flight 752 tragedy.
Trudeau was asked by Reuters journalist, “Given the tensions in the area that were the cause of a drone strike by the United States, do you think the United States is at least partially responsible for this tragedy?”
Trudeau responded without ruling out.“I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions of assigning responsibility, whatever proportions. Right now, our focus is on supporting the families who are grieving across the country and provide what answers we can in a preliminary way, and recognizing that there is going to need to be a full and credible investigation into what exactly happened before we draw conclusions.”
The federal government must list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as “terrorist entity”, say the Council of Iranian Canadians, B’nai Brith Canada and longtime Iranian-Canadian activist Reza Banai.
“We are renewing our calls … to complete this long overdue listing process within the next 30 days,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn told reporters at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Monday.
“The IRGC must be listed as a terrorist group and no further delay is acceptable.”
The demand comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informed media that Hassan Rouhani, president of Iran, admitted his country “unintentionally” downed Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 with a surface-to-air missile.
Trudeau said he was “furious and outraged that families across this country are grieving the loss of their loved ones”, after the January 8 plane crash killed all 176 on board, including 57 Canadians.
The destruction of Flight 752 occurred about four hours after Iran’s bombardment of military bases in Iraq housing NATO forces ended, apparent retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of IRGC’s Quds Force.
Asked if he would now consider officially listing IRGC as a terrorist group – as Quds Force has been since 2012 – Trudeau said “these are the kinds of questions that we will have to be reflecting on in the coming days and weeks.”
Two days later in the same room and flanked by Avideh Motmaen-Far, president of the Council of Iranian Canadians and Reza Banai, chairman of the Justice 88 campaign, Mostyn said that time was now, “to recognize and confront this longstanding threat.”
“Current circumstances do not detract from what we know about the threat, and what action must be taken in response,” Mostyn said, urging the government to act on a September 2018 motion in the House of Commons that Liberal MPs supported: to list IRGC as “terrorist entity.”
In 2012, Canada cut official diplomatic ties with Iran by shuttering our embassy in Tehran and tossing Iran’s diplomatic attaché from Ottawa.
Motmaen-Far caged addressing global terrorism fomented by the Iranian regime on diplomatic terms, as a fool’s errand and lambasted U.S. President Barack Obama for inadvertently funding such activity.
“The $150 billion sent by President Obama…was used to create more horror and fund Iranian military groups in Syria to maintain the dictator of Bhashar al-Assad,” she said of the cash for JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal).
“The Iranians never saw one dollar from that money returned to the regime …this money is used to wage war everywhere by the IRGC.”
Asked if listing the IRGC as a terror group would hamper Canadian diplomatic efforts to even access Iran, investigate the crash and engage in the identification and repatriation of the deceased, Motmaen-Far bristled.
“That’s the only way to corner them (by cutting their financial means); then they will not have the power to terrorize us,” Motmaen-Far said.
“How can they make it worse than it is now?” she replied, evoking the 2003 murder of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, after her arrest in Tehran.
Banai, whose Justice 88 seeks redress secret executions carried out by the Iranian regime in 1988, described IRGC as “military organization for serving objectives of the (1979) Islamic Revolution.”
“There is no mention of Iran in the IRGC title … it was solely created to protect and expand political Islam globally, specifically (Iran’s) Shia branch,” said Banai.
“During the last four decades, the IRGC has evolved into an enormous, multi-faceted mafia organization, while acting as a shadow government with no accountability.”
B’nai Brith lawyer David Matas said the immediate benefit of an IRGC terror listing would allow for the families of Flight 752 victims to sue Iran under parameters of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
“For now, we can’t,” Matas explained.
“Iran, in theory, could say, ‘well this (missile attack) was committed by the IRGC but not the Quds Force’ … it’s a ridiculous defence but it’s open as far as the law is concerned.”
In a press conference Saturday, Prime Minister accepted that Iran was to blame for the shooting down of the Ukrainian flight 752 on Wednesday—a tragedy that resulted in 176 deaths including 57 Canadians. However, Trudeau dodged questions about the legitimacy of the U.S. strike that took out Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani.
The Post Millennial asked Trudeau if he thinks that Soleimani was a legitimate target and if he would consider listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist entity.
The IRGC’s Quds Force, for which Soleimani was commander, has been a designated “listed terrorist entity” by Public Safety Canada since 2012.
“These are the kinds of questions that we will have to be reflecting on in the coming days and weeks. Our focus right now is providing the support to grieving families that need answers, that need closure, that need justice,” Trudeau said
We followed up by enquiring: “Your defence minister characterized the attack on Soleimani as an act of deterrence. One made, of course, by the United States. Do you agree with that assessment?”
“There are many conclusions that we will be drawing as we move forward and reflecting on these incidents of the past week. Our focus right now is on ensuring that we are giving all of the support necessary to families who have suffered immeasurable loss right now. That means access to consular officials. That means being part of a credible investigation so that we get all of the answers so that, then we can reflect upon next steps,” Trudeau responded.
Trudeau was also asked how he could have any faith in Iran after they lied about the incident for three days. Trudeau acknowledged that this was an excellent question and that there is still much to discover.
A member of the scrum asked what Trudeau’s message was to the protestors against the regime on the streets of Iran and here at home.
Trudeau said: “My message to Canadian families that are grieving is that we will be there for them. My message to people around the world who are outraged about this incident is that they should be demanding answers and that they should be demanding accountability and justice as well. This is a tragedy that should not have happened”
Three consular officials are expected to land in Tehran at 4 pm EST, to lay the groundwork for eight additional officials, including two Transport Safety Board investigators waiting in Ankara, Turkey.
You can watch the full press conference here:
With files by Jason Unrau.