Parliamentary Relatives: Spouses

Article 10 / 11 , Vol. 45 No. 1 (Spring)

Parliamentary Relatives: Spouses

Municipally, provincially, and federally, governing bodies across Canada have seen numerous political families. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers, sisters, in-laws—direct and extended-family dynasties are scattered throughout the nation’s political history.

Entrenched among these narratives are those of parliamentarians linked by love rather than blood. Of known couples, partners have often served in the House of Commons sequentially rather than simultaneously. Notably, many widows ran in subsequent elections after the deaths of their husbands.

This article, however, looks at Members of Parliament who worked concurrently as colleagues and spouses.

Nina and Gurmant Grewal

Photo of Nina Grewal
Nina Grewal

 

Photo of Gurmant Grewal
Gurmant Grewal

Nina and Gurmant Grewal were the first legally married couple to serve as Members of Parliament at the same time. Their road to Ottawa began on the other side of the world. Gurmant, born in India, and Nina, born in Japan, lived in Liberia together before immigrating to Canada. Gurmant was elected to the House of Commons in 1997 for the riding of Surrey Central in British Columbia winning re-election in 2000. From 2004-2006, he represented Newton—North Delta. He did not seek re-election for the Conservative Party of Canada in January 2006. Nina Grewal sat in the House of Commons through four Parliaments from 2004 to 2015 for the riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, advocating as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada for legislation against identity theft, among other issues.

Jack Layton and Olivia Chow

Photo of Jack Layton
Jack Layton

 

Photo of Olivia Chow
Olivia Chow

The New Democratic Party (NDP) also had a power couple in recent years: Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. Layton was first elected as a Toronto councillor in 1982 and during the 1985 Metropolitan Toronto Council elections, he began dating school board trustee candidate Olivia Chow. They were married in 1988. Chow was elected to the Metro Toronto Council in 1991. In 2003, Layton became leader of the NDP and was elected to the House of Commons for Toronto—Danforth in 2004. After two attempts in 1997 and 2004, Chow was successful in winning the federal seat of Trinity—Spadina in 2006. The two followed the Grewals as the second simultaneously serving legally married couple in parliamentary history. Less than four months after Layton led the NDP to its most successful election result in 2011, he passed away as Leader of the Opposition. In 2014, Chow resigned her seat to run for mayor of Toronto.

Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis

Photo of Rahim Jaffer
Rahim Jaffer

 

Photo of Helena Guergis
Helena Guergis

First elected in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1997 for the Reform Party of Canada (later for the Conservative Party of Canada), Rahim Jaffer held several positions, including critic for foreign affairs and trade and caucus Chair. Helena Guergis, also a member of the Conservative Party, was elected for Simcoe-Grey in 2004. Guergis occupied several positions including Secretary of State and remained a Member of Parliament until 2011. The morning after Jaffer’s 2008 election loss, the two decided to advance their wedding plans and were reportedly married later that day by former MP Ian McClelland.

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac and Claude Guimond

Photo of Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac
Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac

 

Photo of Claude Guimond
Claude Guimond

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac and Claude Guimond met at the Bloc Québécois caucus in January 2008. Thi Lac became the first Canadian of Vietnamese origin elected to the House of Commons only a few months prior through a by-election in 2007. Guimond won his seat for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques in the fall of 2008. The two were married in September 2010. In an article discussing their relationship and respective electoral defeats in 2011, Thi Lac expressed that political involvement requires a person to set aside other meaningful things in life. Yet, it was their shared passion for politics that strengthened their bond.

Marilène Gill and Xavier Barsalou-Duval

Marilène Gill
Marilène Gill

 

Xavieir Barsalou-Duval
Xavieir Barsalou-Duval

Marilène Gill (Manicouagan) and Xavier Barsalou-Duval (Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères) currently sit in the House of Commons as members of the Bloc Québécois caucus. The two have been in their respective offices since the 2015 general election. An article discussing their relationship noted that, while they had met during the election campaign of 2015, it was carpooling from their ridings to Ottawa that brought them closer. In 2017, they became the first pair of sitting MPs to become parents.

While romantic couples are not often found to share the House of Commons as a workplace, it is unlikely that federal politics has seen its last pair of parliamentary partners.

Nellie Winters

Table Research Branch, House of Commons

Sources

Thériault, Carl, “Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac et Claude Guimond unis dans la défaite,” Le soleil, 6 May 2011.

Parlinfo, Parliamentarians. Library of Parliament, accessed January 2022.

OurCommons, Members of Parliament. House of Commons of Canada, accessed January 2022.

CBC Archives, “Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, a political love story,” CBC, 23 August 2011.

Lapointe, Diane, “Le député Barsalou Duval rencontre l’amour… sur la route d’Ottawa, ” La Relève, 14 February 2018.

Wright Allen, Samatha, “And baby makes history: Bloc couple first pair of sitting MPs to become parents,” Hill Life & People, The Hill Times, 8 November 2017.

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