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Marsha Cowan,CEO of the Jewish Foundation, with Margaret Trudeau

Anita Wortzman, Chair of the Jewish Foundation presenting the Wortzman called upon Ruth Livingston to accept this certificate of appreciation in Irma Penn's honour and memory to her freind Ruth Livingston.

Speaker Sponsors Tovah and Larry Vickar with Margaret Trudeau

Left to Right: Dianne Lieberman, WEF Luncheon Co-Chair The Honourable Jim Carr Ruth Livingston, representing WEF Honouree Irma Penn (z’’l) Margaret Trudeau Marsha Cowan, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba CEO Anita Wortzman, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba Chair Jessica Cogan, WEF Luncheon Co-Chair His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman

Margaret Trudeau addresses Largest Ever Jewish Foundation Women’s Luncheon on Manic Depression-Irma Penn Z'l Leaves Major Bequest Over One Million To Jewish Foundation

by Rhonda Spivak, June 1, 2017


Margaret Trudeau addressed the largest ever  Jewish Foundation of Manitoba’s Women’s Endowment Fund Luncheon on the topic of mental illness held at the RBC Conventon Centre April 21, 2017.


 Luncheon Co-Chair Jessica Cogan noted that there were about  "450 guests here today, making this the largest Women’s Endowment Fund Luncheon in history."


Cogan noted that " Since 1994, the Women’s Endowment Fund has distributed approximately half-a-million dollars to about 80 different organizations and initiatives that help women and girls of all backgrounds in Manitoba. In 2016, the Women’s Endowment Fund offered its financial support to organizations addressing women’s health, addiction, the integration of newcomers to our community, human trafficking, and other important issues. Women's issues are everyone's issues. The Women's Endowment Fund is the only fund of its kind in Western Canada and we are proud of what we do."


She added " The JFM's total assets sit at $107 million. Of that, there is just over $1.5 million in our Women's Endowment Fund. This is endowed money and we never touch the assets. We make a difference through the income we earn. Imagine how much more impact we could have when we reach – and surpass – our goal of two million dollars. As our community changes, and as our world changes, the Women’s Endowment Fund and the Jewish Foundation as a whole are poised to do remarkable things." 


Co-chair Dianne Lieberman said that thanks to those in attendance "the fund has grown and we will have an even greater impact in the community."


Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation set out some of the some of the things  accomplished in 2016 by the Women’s Endowment Fund, such as adding "beds to Siloam Mission’s shelter so that Winnipeg women in desperate need of accommodations would have somewhere to go," helping " the Joy Smith Foundation develop and share materials to teach students, parents, and teachers about human trafficking" and helping " refurnish apartments managed by Alpha House so that women and children escaping abusive relationships could be safe and comfortable." The Fund also supported "Jewish Child and Family Service enhance its support group programming for Jewish women living with addiction in their families."


She indicated that the goal is to reach 2 million dollars in assets for the Women’s Endowment Fund, and invited  new donors to consider opening a fund. "And we encourage current fund holders to grow their funds. For those fund holders whose current balance is under 1000 dollars, we have launched the special “Race to 1,000” incentive program to help you get there even faster. Please visit our website or contact our office to learn more about this."


At the luncheon, the Foundation honoured Irma Penn z"l, who passed away in 2013 and made a bequest of over a million dollars to the JFM. Chair of the Board of the JFM, Anita Wortzman Irma had requested that a significant portion of the annual net income be used for Jewish education. As a result, the JFM is launching the Irma Penn Jewish Educational Grant Pilot Project which offers a grant of up to $35,000.(Go to 

to learn more about this exceptional grant)



Wortzman added that Penn was "a special woman in our community. Someone who has made a difference through philanthropy and exceptional acts of community leadership. A role model. A hero," who "might be best remembered as the “soferet” – or scribe – of the first Torah scroll in Canada to be scribed by a woman – a massive project she was proud to undertake for her beloved Temple Shalom."


Wortzman continued that "Irma Penn was a Jew by choice. But she didn’t just choose Judaism, she embraced it, she cherished it, she honoured it, and she lived it. ."


Wortzman called upon Ruth Livingston to accept this certificate of appreciation in Irma’s honour and memory. Livingston had a very special relationship with Penn. They sang together in the Temple Shalom Choir, and Ruth managed the Temple’s Torah scroll project. Livingston learned from Penn how to be a scribe herself. 


          Trudeau gave an emotional and  powerful speech which impacted the audience greatly, as she outlined what it is like to have bi-polar disorder, that causes periods of depression and periods of elevated mood ( also known as manic depression)

         “I am one of the luckiest people around,” she stated at the outset of  her remarks, “not because my son is the Prime Minister, but because I know what it’s like to have lost your mind.”


          Margaret , who was born Margaret Sinclair noted that as a young girl she was "a  drama queen" but I was never labeled as having a mental illness.”


          In her childhood her family emphasized three “imperatives” to good health: Sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise. She noted that  she lacked sleep  when she fell into what she now understands was a deep depression twice in her life


 Margaret's identified the turning point in her life as being when she went to university, living on her own for the first time in her life, living "in the basement suite", and "not getting enough sleep, not eating well.”   She tried marijuana at age 18 and “I took to it like a duck to water,” she said with honesty. At the time there was “was no diagnosis of mental illness,” albeit she was showing the first signs of it.


          Margaret first met  Pierre Trudeau when she went to a Club Med in Tahiti with her family.“He was the same age as my mother,” she said.  She had no idea who he was even though he was  a  well known  politician, a Cabinet Minister in the Pearson government.


The audience laughed as she  explained that Pierre was so "serious" reading ‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ on the beach, which is not  exactly relaxing beach reading.


After travelling to Morocco she arrived home and  her mother said said to her that “an old boyfriend of yours is coming by and wants to go out with you on a date.” Margaret revealed that Pierre " had only seen me in a bikini.” 


          When the two  married in 1971, Margaret outlined that Pierre wanted her to  learn French and convert to Catholicism (two things that did not happen).Justin was born on Christmas Day in the first year of their marriage and the first two years of her marriage were  "okay.”  But, by the time of the birth of her second baby, Alexandre (Sacha)  two years later, her depression was so bad that   “I had no interest in my life, in my baby, in my husband,” and  “I couldn’t get out of bed.”


Pierre took her to a psychiatrist who dismissively concluded that her mental condition was “just the baby blues”.Margaret later understood that she was undergoing her “first bout of clinical depression," "a chemical imbalance in my brain" which left her  lost in her " dark thoughts.” 


     Margaret noted that the  the key  hormone “serotonin " is " restored through sleep and when it gets in your brain, neurotransmitters” contribute to improving mood. (Anti-depressant drugs developed in 1985 help restore depleted levels of serotonin in the body).


   In 1974 Margaret "knew nothing about depression,” and  also diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder.”  


    Margaret recounted how at one point Pierre  gave her his Eaton’s credit card and told her to buy whatever she wanted., to assist her in getting over her depression. In her manic state, she acted "on impulse" and decided to fly to Paris instead, without telling anyone, but didn't take her passport. It wasn't clear how she was let into  France without a passport , but presumably it was because she was the spouse of the Canadian prime Minister).But once there, she felt she needed to go walking in  Crete “to find myself.”  She went to the Canadian embassy in Paris to get  a visa to get into Greece. It was  then that Pierre learned of her whereabouts and quickly sent  a plane to Crete to “whisk her back to Ottawa.”


          Margaret  revealed that at that time, “I went from a deep depression to mania. I got so high. " She identified this state as "hypomania" where  “The brain fills with dopamine – flooding into your brain." In this state, Margaret explained " “we just want to get away from the noise,” which is why she wanted to go walking in Crete.  Margaret was brought back from Crete and landed in a psych ward in an Ottawa hospital.    “I had an overwhelming need to escape my life,” she revealed.


She decided to separate from Pierre (which occurred in 1977) "The first thing I did was run off with the Rolling Stones. You don’t take into account the consequences of your actions…. The manic mind is your addiction when you’re bipolar.”


         Stuart Smith, then president of the Federal Liberal Party was the one who told Pierre that Margaret was “manic depressive”, a term that neither he nor she  were familiar with.      But, Margaret “wouldn’t accept that I had an illness where I needed to be treated.”


          Margaret's decision to leave  Pierre "was the hardest decision of my life. He had a big job to do and I felt like I was trapping him.” It was "one of my sons who got me into treatment." 


          After  remarrying in 1984  to a real estate developer , Fred Kemper she had “10 glorious years” albeit after the birth of her daughter, Alicia, in 1988 she again suffered from “postpartum depression”.


 Margaret's fell into a deep depression she experienced a profound tragedy when her  son Michel died in an avalanche in 1988 while skiing in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. “I went out of my mind,” she said.“I got rid of my husband. I couldn’t deal with my life. I just wanted to bury myself.”


   “I was finally taken to a hospital on a gurney,” she said.  “The doctor there said to me: ‘You can go home if you want – and complete the job of killing yourself.’” Instead, she explained, “I got really helped. I was in the hospital for a while.” Margaret was given cognitive therapy, which is “the best therapy you can get." Receiving cognitive therapy, has enabled her to enjoy “a feeling of permanence" and she added that she "got back my faith” that "G-d is love”.


She concluded her remarks by saying “I don’t take medication anymore,”

"I’m not manic anymore because I’m simply not going there.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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