• Bernie Sanders supporters in Montreal are actively organizing for their candidate in the city.
  • Though it may feel distant, American politics do have an influence in Montreal, affecting thousands of Americans living in the city.

On the eve of Super Tuesday, Montreal's Bernie Sanders supporters are asking for a large turnout from U.S. students living in the city. Despite expected low voter turnout numbers, American students living in Montreal representing "Montreal for Bernie" want you all to know that voting in the U.S. primaries is a lot easier than you think. "We could singlehandedly flip the Global Presidential Primary to Bernie’s favour in Montreal," says Peter Chen, founder of "Montreal for Bernie." 

The United States is in the thick of its Democratic party primary elections and caucuses, which will determine who the party nominates to go up against Donald Trump. As it stands, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leads the pack over fellow candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, and Michael Bloomberg. 

Montreal for Bernie began with a contingent of students and activists who aim to increase voter awareness and assistance to Americans living abroad. 

The small, yet dedicated group has helped campaign for Sanders with the help of sister chapters across the country and even found themselves in rural New Hampshire going door-to-door on behalf of their candidate. 

With roughly 3,000 voting-age U.S. students living in Montreal, the group hopes to attract progressive young voters to come out in numbers for Bernie Sanders and potentially flip the election in his favour. 

The Global Presidential Primary is the most crucial race for Americans living abroad, according to Chen. In 2016, a little over 3,000 total Americans living in Canada voted.

"That's a voter participation rate of about 0.5%."  

"Official numbers from McGill and Concordia say that there are a little over 3,000 voting-age American students in Montreal. These students are a prime target," explains Chen. 

Abigail Popple and Gavin Armitage-Ackerman, local students and members of the Montreal for Bernie Principles Group, are among those invested in the campaign to elect Bernie Sanders. 

Even though Sanders is ahead in the student vote, many Americans living abroad don't realize how much political agency they actually have, the group contends.

"The issue is not that they don’t want to vote or feel disaffected — the real issue is that they don’t know how to vote or don’t know they can," explains Armitage-Ackerman.

"Voting in the Global Presidential Primary is actually a really straight-forward process," says Popple, a McGill student from Texas.

"All you have to do is register at DemocratsAbroad.org and you can email your ballot until March 10." 

There's unprecedented American-Canadian support for Sanders, something that no other candidate in the history of the U.S. election has been able to achieve, claims Montreal for Bernie. 

"It’s an interesting phenomenon that the Bernie Sanders campaign can inspire and drive out so many Americans living abroad. I think he’s the only candidate who can inspire that kind of fervour," asserts Popple.

Armitage-Ackerman, who was born in British Columbia, isn't allowed to vote in the election or the primaries for that matter, but that hasn't stopped him from campaigning for the Sanders campaign. 

"Would I do what I’m doing for another candidate that I’m doing for Bernie Sanders? I don’t think so," he says. 

"Bernie is a candidate that you vote for because you’re for the candidate," adds Chen. 

"Everyone else, Biden, Bloomberg, Warren, they’re candidates that you vote for if you don’t want Trump in office. There’s a big difference in that." 

"All the other candidates just present themselves as these aggressively competent but innocuously neo-Liberal politicians. I just don’t think that would inspire the electoral base as much as Bernie Sanders would," says Popple. 

Montreal for Bernie acknowledges that they frequently get asked why they have such a large presence in Montreal.

For its members, who come from diverse makeup of backgrounds and nationalities, Sanders represents everything that progressive politics should aspire to, including here in Canada.

The group asserts that a Sanders presidency would potentially create a wholesale shift in how Canada thinks about its relationship to itself and to the U.S. 

"I think that Bernie would be a model for Canada," says Armitage-Ackerman.

"For all the talk about Canada being a politically progressive country, it’s not as progressive as we’d like to think. A Sanders presidency would be far to the left of what we’ve ever seen in Canada."

"If the U.S. adopted a health care plan which was more successful and provided more coverage, the Trudeau administration would have no choice but to adopt those same policies," added Popple. 

For Chen and Popple, who are from the U.S., losing this election wouldn't mean that they'd never go back to America. 

"If there was an opportunity for me there, you know, I’m not ideologically opposed to going back," said Popple. 

"America is one of the few places in the world that’s a home of ideas. I truly believe that what is wrong can be fixed by what is right. I’d go back and continue the fight from there," added Chen. 

Despite their idealism, however, they're disappointed in their country for passively accepting the status quo and for lacking empathy. 

"It’s a matter of choosing which policies we think will benefit people the most but people can’t get past this idea that we don’t have the political agency to build the infrastructure that would benefit everyone," said Popple. 

"Sanders has spoken about this notion of ‘will you fight for someone that is different than you?’ We must move to a society where people who have wealth and opportunity want those things for other people," added Chen. 

Super Tuesday is on March 3, 2020. Americans living in Montreal and who want to vote in the Global Presidential Primary can do so through DemocratsAbroad.org.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media or MTL Blog.

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