Wife of former Canadian PM Jean Chretien dies at 84

September 13, 2020 GMT

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Aline Chretien, the wife and trusted adviser of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, has died. She was 84.

A spokesman for the Chretien family says she died at her home in Shawinigan, Quebec, on Saturday morning surrounded by family. A cause of death was not specified.

Bruce Hartley says only a private ceremony is being planned for now because of restrictions associated with COVID-19, with a public memorial planned for sometime in the future.

Jean Chretien served as Canada’s 20th prime minister from 1993 to 2003. He led his Liberal party to three straight majority governments.

Aline Chretien grew up in a blue-collar family, just a few blocks away from her future husband in the Quebec pulp-and-paper town of Shawinigan, where they met during a chance encounter on a bus. While she rarely spoke publicly, Aline Chretien was a constant presence at Jean Chretien’s side and a major influence on him during his four-decade political career.

She even arguably saved Chretien’s life on Nov. 5, 1995, when a jackknife-wielding, mentally unstable intruder broke into the prime minister’s official residence in the middle of the night. After encountering him in the hall outside their bedroom, Aline Chretien slammed and locked the door before calling the Royal Canadian Mounted Police guardhouse and waking her husband, who then famously armed himself with a soapstone carving of a loon.

The couple had just marked their 63rd wedding anniversary on Thursday.