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Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire are to separate, according to a social media post from the leader of the G7 nation.

Trudeau and Grégoire are separating after 18 years of marriage, and have three children. Grégoire is a former television host.

“After many meaningful and difficult conversations, we have made the decision to separate,” Trudeau wrote on an Instagram post. Grégoire posted a similar statement on Instagram, written in French.

“We remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other,” the prime minister’s statement added.

The couple have publicly addressed difficulties in their marriage before. In 2015, Grégoire said “no marriage is easy” in a television interview. A year before, Trudeau said the couple “have had difficult ups and downs”.

The news comes days after Trudeau enacted a cabinet shuffle meant to emphasise his focus on the economy, which included the surprise departure of justice minister David Lametti.

Trudeau, 51, who has served as prime minister since 2015, has seen his popularity wane during his tenure as Canadians contend with higher costs of living, and his government has been involved in a number of scandals related to cronyism and corruption. Most recently, the government has been criticised for its handling of an investigation into Chinese interference in the past two federal elections.

Canada’s Liberal party was re-elected with a minority government in 2021, and has an alliance with the left-leaning New Democratic party, which it relies on for votes in parliament to pass crucial legislation. Trudeau may face his biggest challenge yet in the 2025 election from Pierre Poilievre, the leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative party.

Poilievre, a pugilistic 44-year-old who criticises Canada’s “gatekeepers” — a reference to elites in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — and prioritises law and order, has animated the Conservative base, as well as Canadians who have struggled with inflation. Poilievre’s party raised C$8.3mn (US$6.2mn) in the first quarter of 2023 to spend on campaigning, more than twice what the Liberals brought in.

Trudeau is the son of the late former prime minister Pierre, who also separated from his wife in 1977 while serving as the country’s leader. He divorced Trudeau’s mother Margaret in 1984, when he stepped away from politics after two terms as prime minister.

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