Pictured left to right: Sam Miriello, Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni
As the federal and city elections draw near many current and past Concordians are finding their voice
With the 2021 federal election well under way, a number of current and former Concordians are taking their first steps into the political spotlight. This year Concordia has produced candidates in a variety of positions and parties. Some have joined the NDP, or the Liberal and Conservative parties, while others are involved in municipal politics running for city council here in Montreal.
Samuel Miriello graduated from Concordia in 2021. He’s worked in PR for the past five years but recently became involved with Mouvement Montréal. The party was founded in 2021 and is placing a large focus on community action and getting people involved in political decisions. Miriello had been involved in politics at Concordia when he was CSU councillor, but this is his first time running in a government election. “As a Concordia student there is a lot of opportunity to get involved in politics.”
Miriello is running in the Ville-Marie, Sainte-Marie riding which puts him in direct competition with Montreal’s current mayor Valérie Plante.
“I really like being in competition with Plante … I want to see her held responsible for some of the things that she’s done.” Miriello says.
Going to Concordia has certainly shaped Miriello’s views and involvement in politics. “Part of that is there is such an activist community here, we played an essential role in the 2012 student strikes, we have a history of becoming involved in national and international issues. Like in 2002 when we protested a visit from the Israeli prime minister.”
Miriello says it has been really inspiring to see students come together. Working in politics isn’t something he always imagined he would be doing though. “I was actually kind of against politics for a while but then I realized … we can also progress and participate in reform, while advocating for systemic change.”
His current campaign places a lot of focus on community involvement by creating a community action plan and creating a clear outline of exactly what students want. He also wants to focus on reducing rent costs and improving community gardens.
Regardless of the result of the election Miriello will continue to be involved in his community.
“Voting every four years is not how you make progress; you have to continue the pressure the entire time. If I were to be elected or not elected, I will continue to apply pressure on the government. But it would be more ideal if I was in the government, facilitating that pressure.
At just 20 years old, Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni has an impressive resume. After being confirmed as the NDP’s nominee for the Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle riding on June 14 she has likely spent more time campaigning than she has at Concordia. A first year student in Concordia’s psychology program, an immigrant and proud Quebecer, Ngamaleu Teumeni is excited to make a change in her community.
“I’ve been very, very involved in community engagement and civic engagement in my riding, but also in Montreal and in Quebec. I think that it’s very important to be an active member of our society, and to contribute to it in order to make it better. So that’s sort of one of the reasons why I wanted to get into politics at such an early time,” she said.
As a young woman engaged in her community Ngamaleu Teumeni had never met her riding MP and never seen her at any events. “I thought that was very odd because she’s representing us in Parliament, and she’s voting on issues that touch us and she wasn’t always voting in line with what the constituents want.”
Its the NDP’s policies on the environmental and social justice issues that first drew her to the party.
“I feel as though there’s a very huge lack of representation when it comes to young Black women.” she said.
“We’re present in the society. Minorities are here and minorities need to be heard. I’ve decided to do this in the name of representation so that we can have more folks in Parliament that are speaking for visible minorities.”
When it comes to inspiration, Ngamaleu Teumeni doesn’t have to look further than her own parents.
Ngamaleu Teumeni moved to Quebec from Germany with her family at 4 years old, her family is originally from Cameroon. Her parents both went back to school while raising her and her brother, after first moving to Quebec. “The fact that I can say today that because of them, because of everything that they’ve given me I’m able to run for a federal election and even have a possible chance to win. That’s really great, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Some issues that Ngamaleu Teumeni has focused on during her campaign are controlling housing prices, making public transport cheaper and more accessible, and providing greater protection for the environment as well as creating greenspaces.
Ngamaleu Teumeni has been able to communicate more with her community through this campaign, something which she loves.
“Being able to present resolutions and solutions to those folks, has been a very big highlight.” she said.
Mathew Kaminski completed his undergraduate degree with a bachelor of commerce and is now working on his CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) diploma as a graduate student at Concordia. He is currently a Conservative MP candidate in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount riding.
At 23 years old, Kaminski has been involved in politics for a long time. During his undergraduate studies he represented the JMSB faculty in the CSU. He was also the president of Conservative Concordia.
“I’ve been involved the whole way through since I was 17 and it took me years to develop the knowledge and the confidence to be able to run federally.”
Kaminski’s time in university made a huge impact on shaping his political aspirations.
“Concordia shaped me the most in terms of politics, in really recognizing the social issues that are relevant to students,” he said. “and what solutions are needed.”
“One of my first meetings I ever had with the CSU, they acknowledged that we were seated on Indigenous lands. And that really stood out to me.”
Indigenous affairs are something that remain important to Kaminski as one of the main highlights of his campaign, as he hopes to restore some Indigenous faith in the government.
Another issue Kaminski is passionate about is climate change. “Concordia also made me recognize how much that’s an issue, not only for our generation, but for generations to come.”
While he admits the Conservative climate change plan did not receive the best grade he thinks it will be more effective than the Liberals’.
“What we did is we released a plan that we know we can achieve that will actually have a tangible impact on the environment.”
As he continues his studies while beginning his journey into politics, he is up against some stiff competition — NDG-Westmount has long been a Liberal riding. But this does not seem to have shaken Kaminski’s confidence.
“My mentality has been that I will be an MP one day, I am not going to shy away from that. I will work hard, even if I have to run three, four times and chip away slowly at the support in the riding, I will become an MP. As a childhood dream of mine, it was always to become prime minister of Canada, and so although I’m still very far away from that goal, at least it’s one step forward.”
Chelsea Craig graduated from Concordia in 2016 with a bachelor’s in political science and government, and at 29 years old she is a co-campaign manager for Liberal MP and Mount
Royal candidate Anthony Housefather, who is running for re-election.
A visit from Justin Trudeau to Concordia is a big part of what spurred Craig’s interest in politics
“Ever since then I became very involved with the party. I was the president of the Liberal Concordia during the 2015 campaign … Once I found a way to be involved in partisan politics I found that it was really something that was super enriching and I’ve made a lot of friends and it just is something that always gives me a new challenge.”
The life of a campaign manager can be unpredictable one. Every day is something different. Sometimes Craig is going door to door, or working on the vote strategy, or managing volunteers.
Like many other alumni involved in politics, Concordia played a huge role in Craig’s political development.
“I honestly have nothing but positive things to say about Concordia. I feel like Concordia allowed me to network. Concordia introduced me to the Liberal Party and through Concordia I really got to springboard my career,” Craig said.
The thing that drew her most to the Liberal Party was the official languages.
“I think the Liberal Party has the best ideas on ensuring whether it’d be the francophone minority outside of Quebec or the English-speaking minority inside of Quebec that they keep their rights and that we work with those communities, to see exactly what is needed and how we can better ourselves.”
Politics are an important issue to Craig and something that she wants everyone to embrace.
“There’s a space for everyone in politics. Sometimes I hear people being cynical about it and saying ‘Oh, it’s never going to make a difference’ or ‘You go out and vote and then nobody cares anymore’ and that’s just really not true. There’s so many different ways that you can voice those issues and we are so lucky to live in a country that asks for our opinion.”
While these are not all the candidates or politically involved people Concordia has produced in current or past elections, it is certain that they will not be the last, as we continue to foster individuals ready to make a difference.
Feature photograph by Catherine Reynolds
Photography courtesy of Mathew Kaminski
Photography courtesy of Chelsea Craig