Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

First lady Jill Biden and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau visit a curling club in Ottawa on March 24.ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP/Getty Images

Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, paid a visit to an Ottawa curling club on Friday. “You don’t wear skates?” she asked young curlers on the ice.

Flanked by sharp-suited Secret Service agents, Dr. Biden was accompanied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who also joined her at a National Gallery exhibition of art by Canadian women.

The first lady was in town with her husband, President Joe Biden, who was on the second and final day of an official visit, his first to Canada since taking office more than two years ago. She drove in her own 19-vehicle motorcade through Ottawa – accompanied by speeding police outriders – to both events, before going to the House of Commons to watch the President give a keynote address to MPs and senators.

Dr. Biden and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, who also had a private lunch together on Friday, have met several times before, including in January at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City. This was the first lady’s first visit to Ottawa.

Canada to speed up NORAD upgrades, give $100-million to Haitian police

Shannon Proudfoot: No one is cool when the President of the United States comes to Ottawa

The two women met on Friday morning at the Rideau Curling Club, near the capital’s Chinatown, where they greeted each other with a warm hug before heading into the rink to watch a demonstration on the ice.

Both were wearing smart trouser suits. “We usually don’t dress this fancy for sports,” Ms. Grégoire Trudeau joked.

Their high-heeled boots could have proved perilous on the ice, so they walked around the carpeted edge of the rink and watched the curlers in action from the sidelines.

Howard Rajala, president of the 135-year-old club and a winner of last year’s Canadian Senior Curling Championships, explained the rules of the sport, and how to push the heavy granite stones across the ice.

After the demonstration, Dr. Biden and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau met a group of high school students at the club, for a discussion about the way sport can improve well-being.

Open this photo in gallery:

First lady Jill Biden and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau visit 'Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment,' an art exhibit at the National Art Gallery on March 24.Spencer Colby

Both are mental-health advocates. Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, a former TV host, launched a podcast in 2020 about the mental-health challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Biden, a community college professor and the only first lady to hold a paying job during her husband’s presidency, remarked with a smile that the teenagers were missing school.

She listened empathetically to the young athletes as they described the benefits of exercise. She added that physical activity can help people facing “tough times or mental challenges.”

The woman sometimes known as FLOTUS took notes during the discussion. She told the teenagers she feels a sense of serenity when she exercises.

“You know, it just calms me down and creates balance for my day,” she said.

On the way out, Dr. Biden waved to a small group of bystanders gathered outside a barber shop, before her motorcade sped off toward the National Gallery, with police cars zooming alongside, their blue and red lights flashing.

At the gallery, she and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau viewed works in an exhibition titled “The Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Movement.” The selection included paintings by Emily Carr, one of Ms. Grégoire Trudeau’s favourites.

Ms. Grégoire Trudeau explained to the first lady that Ms. Carr had been inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

Sarah Milroy, curator of the exhibition, told the two visitors that it represents a major “chiropractic adjustment” to the male-dominated Canadian art scene.

In the afternoon, Dr. Biden accompanied her husband to the House of Commons chamber for his speech.

The first lady stood and applauded enthusiastically when the President and Prime Minister acknowledged the presence in the gallery of the two Michaels, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were detained by China for more than 1,000 days.

Later in the day, Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig were among the guests at a lavish gala dinner for President and Dr. Biden, which was held at the Aviation and Space Museum. There were also a number of celebrities on the guest list, including Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, of Schitt’s Creek.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe