Peter Fragiskatos unseated the incumbent in a district near London in the province of Ontario in Canada’s recent parliamentary elections. He is part of Justin Tudeau’s Liberal Party and he owes his interest in politics and particularly in foreign affairs to his grandmother.
The 34-year-old new member of Canadian parliament and son of Greek immigrants caught the political bug from his grandmother Panagiota, who looked after him and two siblings when his parents worked long hours in restaurants in the Malibu neighborhood of London, Ontario.
Panagiota had been a community organizer herself.
“She had a real impact on me. She was a union organizer, a strong believer in social justice,” he told the London Free Press in an interview.
Her stories about surviving Nazi occupation in Greece also sparked his interest in world history and conflict and drove him to study both, first as an undergraduate at Western University, then as a master’s student at Queens University and then seeking a PhD at the University of Cambridge in England.
Fragiskatos’ scholarly focus was the plight of the Kurds and their pursuit since the 1920s for human rights in regions where they were marginalized. He travelled to Europe to speak to leaders and seek historical documents. He found their efforts often failed because of fractious divisions within their ranks.
“I learned that organization matters,” Fragiskatos said.
He returned in 2009 to teach at Huron University College, then was offered a position at King’s University College, where he teaches political science. He established himself as a commentator on Canada and its place in the world, his writings published by Maclean’s magazine, the Globe and Mail, BBC News and CNN, among others.
It didn’t take long for him to move from political observer to political participant, after the Liberal party suffered a historic defeat in 2011.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to get active here,’” he said. “We needed to rebuild the party.”