Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Fellowship Success Story: How I Got Politically Engaged by Jeremiah Kopp

Jeremiah Kopp with Liberal Leader Justin TrudeauIt is usually wise to stray away from absolutes when discussing politics. However, one can safely say that when it comes to political involvement, you will never get exactly what you expect when your journey begins. Much like anything in life, you have to throw yourself down the metaphorical ‘rabbit hole’ before truly discovering exactly how you will learn and grow as an individual along the way.

For those who are politically active at a young age, the motivation can come from different sources. Perhaps it is a relative who was particularly engaged. Perhaps it is a singular issue that one is passionate about and compels engagement. For me, the trigger was the political intrigue involving Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority government in 2005. At the time, I was a mere thirteen years of age. I was in the car with my father on the way to my junior high soccer game when I first delved into the issues. Every day, my dad brought home a copy of the Winnipeg Free Press from work as I enjoyed reading about recent political issues and pouring over the National Hockey League statistics in the sports section. On this particular May afternoon, what especially caught my eye was the apparent drama that had unfolded in the House of Commons the day prior. Member of Parliament and former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Belinda Stronach, had crossed the floor to shift the balance of power and save the Prime Minister’s uncertain minority government ahead of the crucial budget vote. I had a million questions. Who was this woman? Why was this a big deal? Why does it matter that she didn’t like her particular seat and chose to sit somewhere else, on the other side of the aisle? My father did his best to field my rapid-fire questions before I was forced to close the newspaper and join my friends on the soccer pitch. Nevertheless, the damage was already done; I had been bitten by the political bug. Over the ensuing months, I was obsessed with everything taking place in the House of Commons and I was certainly not to be disappointed by the political theatre taking place. Between the Gomery Inquiry becoming a nationally followed spectacle and an impeding, inevitable election, I was hooked. It was in the lead up to the 2006 General Election that I had determined myself to be a Liberal and cheered for Prime Minister Paul Martin from the sidelines. During that time, there was one small constituency I was able to lobby and subsequently annoy. The only audience I had; my grade nine ‘Canadian Studies’ class. We were learning all about Canadian politics and I was keen to establish myself as the most knowledgeable and opinionated. To this day, I am unsure as to whether I established both, or solely the latter.

After the 2006 election, which saw Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party form a minority government, I was keen to get actively involved. In fact, I was so eager to participate that I took out a Liberal Party of Canada membership three months before my fourteenth birthday (the age in which you are allowed to become a Party member) by lying about my age. I felt guilty about this transgression despite having the best of intentions and waited until I was fourteen years old before having my parents drop me off at a community ‘Let’s Talk Politics’ event with Member of Parliament John McCallum at a local church. Nobody in the room had any idea of who I was or where I came from, but after I posed a question to Mr. McCallum on national debt, they were keen to make sure I remained involved. Simultaneously, my father had called my local Member of Parliament Raymond Simard’s constituency office to request a meeting so that, as he jokingly put it, ‘I could bother someone else’.

To this day I clearly remember sitting in Raymond Simard’s office a few weeks later with my father and my eleven year old sister who wanted to be anywhere else other than in this man’s office. I was in awe by all the pictures he had around his office of him with former Prime Ministers and other various dignitaries. The subsequent introduction and meeting had my stomach in knots but also represented the turning point of my political involvement. I was invited to join his Electoral District Association and since that time, have been very blessed with the opportunities I have been given.

Like any fourteen year old, I was immature and inexperienced. It was through the guidance and tutelage of more senior Party members that I was given room to fall and then picked back up when I inevitably made mistakes. At that age, it was truly baptism by fire. It has helped form me into the person that I am today, however, and the lessons I have learned along the way have served me well not only in politics but in all aspects of life.

Since that time I have worked on all levels of politics. Campus, municipal, provincial and federal; both in campaigns and in paid positions of great variety. Political engagement has opened up so many doors and has allowed me to meet like-minded, and not so like-minded people from across the Country. It has forced me to grow up faster than I otherwise might have, and showed me different career paths to consider. To say that my political involvement and those who have helped me along the way has shaped who I am today would be a considerable understatement.

Community and political activism will lead to different experiences for different people. For me, I have had my share of positive and negative moments. I have experienced a full range of emotions surrounding every different political event imaginable and the interactions with people that goes along with them. But to this day, a simple pleasure that has stayed with me since I first became politically active at fourteen, was the enjoyment of seeing other engaged youth. Whether it is in the Liberal Party of Canada, or in my involvement with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, it brings me great joy to see young adults who are passionate about their communities and who are willing to take action to create change.