Andrew Fernandes says the most interesting political conversations of his life have happened while he was tabling for the New Democratic Party of Canada on the mezzanine at Concordia.
“[Of] all the campaigning I’ve done, the Concordia student body is one of the most receptive populations I’ve run into. They’ve generally been very curious and interested in what we’ve had to say. A number of them have been quite informed.”
“One of the greatest things about Concordia is people are not shy of controversy. They’re happy to argue with you or agree with you. But they’re happy to talk to you and that’s the important thing.”
Fernandes is unsure where his attraction to politics began. “Certainly, I was raised to be engaged and interested in how the world works and with what’s going on in business, politics and the environment . . . but it terms of any political indoctrination, not really.”
What he was sure of was that the NDP was the party for him: “I agree with the fundamental principles the party stands for which are democracy, equal rights, economic rights, and social justice.”
He became an active member at 16 years old. By the time he reached 17, he was one of the founding members of his riding association in Lac-Saint-Louis. He’s met and spoken to NDP leader Jack Layton, and participated in both previous elections, campaigning for the NDP candidate of his riding.
Although he finds campaigning to be “encouraging”, he said it’s a complicated process. “It also has to do with the footwork because a lot of it is handing out fliers. You spend time in malls, bus stations and at train stations at five thirty in the morning several days in a row,” laughed Fernandes.
“The reality of politics is no matter what political party you work for or in what riding, there’s going to be a certain number of people who, when you knock on their door, they tell you to get the hell off their property!”
Taking a dual major in political science and economics, Fernandes has been a student at Concordia for a year and half. When he learned the university no longer had an NDP campus club, he chose to take action.
“I decided I had to rectify this situation because you know, naturally, this was just wrong.”
He met up with Lauren Skelly, who had been working along similar lines and was also very involved. “I like to think of it as a joint effort. Together we revitalized the club.”
During the summer and into early fall, NDP Concordia received accreditation from both the federal party and the school. Fernandes serves as the club’s treasurer while Skelly is president.
When NDP Concordia first became an official club, Fernandes said it was more of a “humbling” experience. “It has a certain significance because we had worked on it for such a long time and it sort of made us feel that we’ve accomplished something here. And we’ll continue to accomplish things.”
Some of the events NDP Concordia organized last year included a lecture with well-known pro-marijuana activist Marc Emery, dubbed the “Prince of pot.”
Fernandes said the event was a “tremendous success” as several hundred people showed up. “[The NDP] are in favour of legalization. So we thought he’d be an interesting guy to come and stir up controversy because at the end of the day we want to get people talking.”
Fernandes says NDP Concordia will get involved with the Day of Action in support of the tuition freeze on Feb. 7. The club also hopes to have Layton speak at Concordia by early March.
NDP Concordia also intends to engage in information campaigns to inform the student body about their activities and goals, and is working with the other political campus clubs to organize a debate, similar to the one held in the Hall building auditorium during the 2005-06 federal election.
“It was a lot of fun [the debate] particularly since I think we won it quite handily,” laughed Fernandes.
For more info contact Andrew Fernandes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 514.697.0943.