Clinging To Life painted by Frances Deverell
What Really Went Wrong in the Green Party?
Shortly after the election I woke up to the news that Annamie Paul had just resigned as the leader of the Green Party. In her resignation speech she talked about “breaking down the glass ceiling” and “crawling through shards of glass” to achieve her objective to be a role model for “people who look like her.”
First, let me say that I marked Annamie Paul as my second choice for leader and I did not use all my leader votes. I liked how she spoke. This impression was confirmed at the leader’s debate where, in my opinion she was the strongest speaker on the podium. She is clearly a very talented woman.
You cannot imagine my shock, when the controversy broke out in the Green Party, in public, just a couple of weeks before the election call that everyone knew was coming. First Paul’s Communications Advisor and sometimes-Spokesperson, Noah Zatsman, makes statements against the other two caucus members, again raising the issue of antisemitism. Then, Green Party caucus member Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals when she could not have a conversation with her on the subject of Palestinian human rights and antisemitism. Paul refused to distance herself from those comments. This controversy resulted in the Green Party going into an election in disarray. It had a severe effect on the Party’s ability to fundraise during the campaign.
It confused me when she turned on the party after the election and accused it of racism. When Paul does this, does she mean that the Green Party was racist against her because she was a person of colour? Or because she was Jewish and she really meant the Green Party was anti-Semitic, or because she was Zionist?
Paul seems to imagine that the problems she had are somehow the Green Party’s fault, and not her own. What party did Paul think she belonged to when she chose to run for the leadership? Was she not aware that the Green Party had had a thorough discussion over several years on the subject of Palestinian human rights and had eventually passed a policy statement on the topic? Why did she run for the leadership of a party that she disagreed with so strongly on this red-hot issue? And if she did choose to run for the leadership with thoughts of changing that policy, why did she take it on, in public, right before an impending election? And why did she appoint a Communications Advisor who was so far out of alignment with party policy and was likely to get himself into trouble?
I take my cue from the Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice (CUSJ). Its board opposes the use of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to accuse anyone who disagrees with the behaviour of the State of Israel as being anti-Semitic. It supports the inherent dignity and worth of all Jewish people and their right to be free of stereotypes based on age-old hatred of Jews. It also supports the inherent worth and dignity of Palestinian people and their claim to have a natural, long-standing right to live in peace on their ancient traditional territory.
Unitarians affirm the importance of democratic processes in protecting the rights of all people. As a Unitarian Minister, committed to promote the principles of worth and dignity of every person and the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process, I do not condone the expansion of Israel into the West Bank. I do not condone the removal of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. I do not condone the imprisonment of Palestinians in Gaza and the violence perpetrated against Palestinians and particularly against Palestinian children, or the occasional bombing and destruction of their homes. I affirm that Palestinians have the same human rights to be treated with worth and dignity as Jewish people do. And in alignment with the CUSJ policy I do not believe those positions are anti-Semitic.
If Ms. Paul does not agree with us, she is free to hold a different opinion. But if she wants to be the leader of the Green Party and she disagrees with its policy, her timing for starting that conversation could not have been worse. In addition, her method of starting that conversation by starting a fight could not have been worse. Her actions have been more like those of a suicide bomber who blew herself up in order to destroy an enemy who disagreed with her -- the Green Party of Canada.
To the best MP I have ever had in my life, Paul Manly, I am deeply sorry that you have been part of the collateral damage from this fiasco. We are mourning your undeserved loss.
The only question left is whether the Green Party can ever recover. I hope its members will show the kind of grit, determination, and resilience that we all need to act on the most important issue of our
time -- how to combat climate change. We have only a few more years to turn this carbon economy around and start living in harmony with the planet that feeds us, sustains us, and supplies all our needs. We will never succeed unless we can stop this petty fighting and work to bring all people with us into a new green economy where everyone can participate with dignity.