By Seeba Chaachouh
Peter Julian, a Canadian Member of Parliament representing the New Westminster—Burnaby riding, is one of the four candidates running in the New Democratic Party leadership race. Julian acknowledges that the NDP has committed certain mistakes and that the outcomes of those mistakes were reflected in the 2015 elections. He says that, although the NDP has somewhat shifted away from its primary political focus, he wants to work hard and meet with Canadians and NDP supporters to get the party back on track. While focusing on many Canadian issues, such as pipelines, economy, employment, Islamophobia, and Motion 103, Julian also has plans for Canada on an international level.
An Introduction to Peter Julian:
Q: Who is Peter Julian from Peter Julian’s own perspective?
A: I’m currently the Member of Parliament for Burnaby—New Westminster in British-Columbia, and I’m also running to become the next leader of the NDP.
I grew up in a working class family in New Westminster in British-Columbia, and like many young people back then – and now – I worked and went to school. I felt like I needed to find my place in the world, so I began travelling, and my journey took me all the way to Chicoutimi, Quebec, in 1987. My initial goal was to head out there simply to learn French, but I also ended up finding my “raison d’être.” I began teaching English and working the night shift at a motel to make ends meet. And I also began organizing for the NDP in Quebec. In the two years after my arrival, the membership in the region exploded from 200 to 2500 thanks to the hard work of the entire Saguenay – Lac St. Jean organizing team. I then went on to live in Sherbrooke, Montreal and the Outaouais region over the next few years, so Quebec is truly my second home.
In 2001, family obligations brought me back home to New Westminster where my passion for inclusion led me to become the Executive Director of the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In 2004, I was elected Member of Parliament of Burnaby—New Westminster against all odds and have been re-elected 5 times ever since.
Q: What is your political focus?
A: Bursting the Ottawa bubble. Right now, citizens feel a disconnect between what goes on in Parliament Hill and their everyday lives. People need to know that their elected officials are listening to them, that their concerns are being addressed – concerns like access to good jobs and a quality post-secondary education. We all know that climate change is a great threat not only to our environment, but to our economy and our way of life as well. Canadians want their politicians to be finding a way forward, in order to ensure a safe and clean environment for future generations. This must also be done in collaboration and consultation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. For me, reconciliation is an absolute priority. We simply cannot move forward as a country if we do not recognize that we rest on a shaky foundation: the forceful colonization of First Nations land and First Nations people. Finally, unfortunately, in this day and age, we still need to show a united front to stand up against hate and bigotry. Trump-like policies that incite discrimination and hate are not welcome in Canada and we must do everything we can to foster our rich diversity and inclusiveness.
Q: Why should the Quebec community vote for the NDP?
A: Quebecers overwhelmingly voted for the NDP in 2011. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of seats in the 2015 elections. I think we made some mistakes. I think we lost focus of who we are as New Democrats and Quebecers felt that, especially on environmental issues. That’s why I oppose all raw bitumen pipelines, which includes the Energy East pipeline. My goal in the following months is to reach out to all those Quebecers who have voted for the NDP in the past and show them that we are ready to take on the challenge to work for a greener, fairer and more prosperous country. I firmly believe that residents of Quebec share common values with the NDP, values of social justice, inclusivity, environmental awareness, and equitable access to social services.
Q: Why should the Canadian Muslim community vote for NDP? Is it in their interest?
A: The NDP is a social democratic party that believes in a fair, inclusive economy that leaves no one behind, and we value diversity. A fundamental aspect of all Muslim communities is that they take care of their brothers and sisters. There is a real sense of community. This is also something is that is integral to the NDP.