Annamie Paul is firing back against the coterie of party executives who sought to oust her as head of the Greens, calling them out for “racist” and “sexist” accusations as she seeks to defend her leadership and affirm her authority within the party.
The fiery words at a news conference Wednesday came after Paul survived another day of party strife when a move to push her out shifted course on Tuesday night, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year.
Paul stressed the Green value of “respect for diversity,” but said the change she represents “can often be perceived as a threat to the existing … gatekeepers.”
A scathing series of accusations in a letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, that accompanied a non-confidence motion signed by six of 15 federal councillors laid bare the level of acrimony toward Paul from some insiders.
“Since her election as leader, Annamie Paul has acted with an autocratic attitude of hostility, superiority and rejection, failing to assume her duty to be an active, contributing, respectful, attentive member of federal council, failing to develop a collaborative working relationship, failing to engage in respectful discussions, and failing to use dialogue and compromise,” the document claims.
It goes on to say Paul has attended few council meetings and “has displayed anger in long, repetitive, aggressive monologues and has failed to recognize the value of any ideas except her own.”
Paul, the first Black woman elected to lead a mainstream federal party, said the document was “so racist, so sexist” that it was “immediately disavowed” by a majority of party executives and both Green MPs.
“The rules of the game seem to change. Suddenly there is a need for more oversight, heightened accountability, swifter and more severe sanctions,” she said.
Paul also came out swinging against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he sought to sow “division and disarray” among Greens by recruiting MP Jenica Atwin.
“You are no ally, and you are no feminist,” she said.
The Green caucus, which includes former leader Elizabeth May, is now down to two after Atwin defected to the governing Liberals last week, citing internal clashes over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a key reason for her decision.
The fallout from discord in Paul’s party has continued apace, with two of the federal council’s members resigning last night.
Lia Renaud, who represents the Greens’ Nova Scotia wing, told The Canadian Press she “could not in good conscience continue” her support for Paul, but said she still backs May and Manly.
Lucas Knell also confirmed he stepped down as the representative for Newfoundland and Labrador, potentially leaving Paul’s political fate in the hands of the remaining 13 councillors, some of whom were appointed rather than elected by party members.
The resignations follow two others declared in the last few weeks, including John Kidder, a vice-president and May’s husband.
The rift stems in part from a statement by Paul’s then-adviser Noah Zatzman, who said in a social media post on May 14 that “we will work to defeat you,” referring to unspecified Green MPs, among others, who he accused of antisemitic rhetoric.
The post came largely as a response to Atwin, who deemed the Green leader’s statement on violence in the Palestinian Territories “completely inadequate” and called on Israel to “#EndApartheid” in a Twitter post on May 11.
That post has since been deleted, though Atwin told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that “I certainly stand by what I’m saying.” She then adjusted her stance on Israel to align with the more moderate Liberal position on Monday.
Manly had said in a May 10 post the planned removal of Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah “is ethnic cleansing.”
Paul has avoided explicit rejection of Zatzman’s statement, but has noted he no longer serves a senior adviser and stressed her initial statement on last month’s Mideast crisis: “Violence and confrontation will not bring resolution, only more suffering. We urge restraint and call on those in positions of authority to do all in their power to prevent further injury or loss of life.”
Jo-Ann Roberts, who served as interim party leader for nearly a year, said Paul is facing the “growing pains” of a party whose membership spans multiple factions, from fiscal conservatives to eco-socialists.
“She’s learned some very tough lessons the hard way very publicly about the need to be in touch with people, know what they’re thinking,” Roberts said in an interview.
“I think this has been a communications breakdown, and that’s going to take some work to fix.”
The answer right now is not to change leaders, she added. “She is new to the job and deserves to have the chance to figure this out.”
May also faced backlash from the grassroots after she resisted a vote by members in favour of a resolution supporting sanctions against Israel in 2016, Roberts noted. At the time, May opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling it “polarizing and divisive.”
Questions of bullying and racial bias against Paul, who is also the second Jewish person to lead a mainstream federal party (the NDP’s David Lewis was the first), had already bubbled to the surface.
Operation Black Vote Canada said in a statement Tuesday it was “disappointed and dismayed” to learn of the initial non-confidence motion.
“As the first Black Canadian to ever lead a major political party, the election of Ms. Paul represented a step forward in the mission to diversify our politics, and have more Canadians represented in the institutions that represent them. Today’s developments represent a step backward in that endeavour,” the group said.
Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Paul is “facing an outright revolt.”
“This does not bode well for the party ahead of the next potential federal campaign, during which both the Liberals and the New Democrats will do their best to sway environmentally conscious voters,” he said.
—Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press