A couple of weeks ago I was happy to be able to join my mother and aunt in attending the Women’s Canadian Club of London Spring Luncheon in London, Ontario. It was a real treat to go to something with adult women and without a small child in tow! And I got to see Margaret Trudeau speak in person to boot.
When we got to the luncheon the crowd of about 700 women was an awesome sight. In Victoria it’s rare to see a group of that size for any sit-down event. (Athough when I went to see Jane Goodall speak a few years ago we certainly had that number in attendance … but I wouldn’t say it’s common here at all. ) I suppose it wouldn’t have been hard to sell out tickets for an event featuring Margaret Trudeau, even if she didn’t have a new book currently on the market. For any non-Canadians reading this blog, Ms. Trudeau stepped into a famous life here in Canada in the early 1970s when she married our Prime Minister at the time – Pierre Trudeau. She still holds the title of being the youngest Canadian Prime Minister’s wife in our history. She was 22.
Of course when she became the Prime Minister’s wife I was a preschooler! It was all a long time ago but even I have heard the stories of how wild she was in those days. Now we know why. Margaret’s new book apparently is about her struggle with mental health issues. She is diagnosed with bipolar disorder now and this speaking appearance appeared like a bit of a vindication tour in the vein of, “This is why I was how I was back then, folks.” And perhaps that has helped both her and the Canadian public understand how and why things went the way they did back then.
Margaret spoke after some initial announcements and introductions and a welcome from London mayor Joe Fontana. She was fairly captivating to listen to. She told us her personal story with battling a mental health issue, and she told us of both her dark and light days. Funnily enough, she forgot to turn her cell phone off during the speech but luckily (for all of us) decided not to take the call when her phone rang!
Ms. Trudeau appeared to be a funny, charismatic and gracious woman. My only complaint about her appearance at this luncheon is that I thought that she could have used her power position to highlight more information about mental health issues in general. “Statistics show that one in every five Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives,” says the website of the Canadian Mental Health Association. And I’m sure there is more information that we the public should know about this issue to help bring it more into the light. However, I’m sure just having a famous person speak about the topic and her own personal struggle with it helps families who have been hiding their dark mental health secrets over their lifetimes. They will know they are not the only ones to suffer. And Ms. Trudeau suffered her illness in the public eye, a position none of us would envy I’m sure.
She stayed to sign a few books at the end which included writing something nice in my aunt’s purchased copy of Trudeau’s book. Surprisingly, the line to see her was short. I probably won’t read her book but I do commend her for writing her story and speaking up. Were that we were all so honest with our private lives when they have involved so much pain. It’s a difficult thing to write about – let alone speak publicly about – I’m sure.
I might have been the youngest one in the audience that day but I’ll miss those ladies who luncheon. Especially my two lovely family women – Mom and Aunt Joyce – who took me with them that day and showed me a great time.