The Current

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau's request for more staff sparks debate over role of PM's spouse

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has claimed she is overwhelmed with demands. Her request for more staff has raised lots of hackles and a few new questions. What is the role of the prime minister's spouse in Canada? Should it evolve?
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says she feels overwhelmed with the high demand for her time and needs more staff to cope with requests. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

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The question of what role the prime minister's wife should play — and on whose dime — has become an intense debate on Parliament Hill, on Facebook and Twitter feeds, and in media outlets in Canada and around the world.

It began when Grégoire Trudeau, a mother of three young children, told Quebec City's Le Soleil newspaper that she felt overwhelmed by the demands on her time and would like extra help to keep up with requests from charities to help support their causes.

"I don't think how I will define my position, what I know is that I'm here to serve and I want to make a difference," Grégoire Trudeau told Chatelaine earlier this spring.

Opposition parties are making some political hay over media reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, has asked for extra staff to help manage official duties. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Prime Minister's Office said it would consider her request but it has clearly hit a nerve with many Canadians, both in favour — and against — Grégoire Trudeau's vision for herself as a public figure. The backlash includes a hashtag, #prayforsophie, that has turned politics into a personal attack.

Canada has a long history of judging or ignoring the spouses of our prime ministers. Now it seems the divide on Sophie's choices have sparked a debate on defining a role for prime minister's spouses.

Guests in this segment:

Should there be an official role for the spouse of the Canadian prime minister? Or should the spouse of the prime minister be able to define the role for him or herself?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Idella Sturino and Hamutal Dotan.