Annamie Paul thought “many times” of quitting as leader of the Green Party of Canada after weeks of “painful” internecine bickering, but says she’s in fighting trim for the next federal election.
A buoyant Paul told a Toronto press conference on July 19 that two key roadblocks to her leadership of the Green Party have been removed.
In one, a motion of non-confidence in her leadership, which was set to be considered by the party’s Federal Council on July 20, is now off the table.
“No further motions of non-confidence against the leader will be proposed to the current Federal Council or prior to the next general meeting of the Green Party,” a statement on the party’s website states.
In the second, a review of Paul’s membership in the Green Party has been “suspended,” the party added.
Paul and her party have been front-page news for weeks amid internal feuding that included financial cuts, staff cutbacks, challenges to her leadership and even membership in the party, and fallout from Green opinions on the Israel-Gaza war in May.
Elected as leader only last October, Paul, the first Black and first Jewish woman to lead a federal political party, seemed a tragic figure—a flash in the pan brought down by her own.
‘Diversity in politics matters’
She confessed that the last few weeks have been “incredibly painful for me and my family. I want to be upfront about that.
It is extremely hard to have your integrity questioned when you value it so much. It’s extremely hard to have your commitment to human rights and social justice questioned. It was very hard, and remains very hard, to be stripped of many of the tools I need to be an effective leader.”
Paul seemed stoic. “I thought many times over the last number of weeks of packing it in,” she told the news conference, held via Zoom. “Anybody in my situation (who) is in it for the right reasons would have considered stepping down. It has been incredibly difficult and taken quite a toll.”
The reason she didn’t quit was because “it should not be this difficult for people with experience to operate in service to their country. There are too many good people who have found it impossible,” and she didn’t want to be one of them.
“When my kids asked me, ‘Mom, why have you kept going when it’s been so hard?’ What I tell them is that diversity in politics matters.”
She said it was difficult to hear and read accusations of feuding within the party when in fact, it was all a “one-sided campaign to limit” or end her leadership.
She didn’t quit also because she said she owed it to members who elected her and Green candidates in the next election to move forward.
The objective in the next vote is to elect “as many Green MPs as possible,” Paul said to cheers from those physically present. “That’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
She also called for “a new culture in politics.”
The Israel flashpoint
The 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May provided additional friction in the party. Paul called for an “immediate de-escalation” during the conflict and a “return to dialogue.”
New Brunswick Green MP Jenica Atwin rejected that as “a totally inadequate” statement and called for an end to “apartheid” in Israel. (She later walked back those remarks.) She then defected to the Liberals, reducing the number of Green MPs to two.
Noah Zatzman, a senior aide to Paul, took to social media to promise unnamed pro-Palestinian MPs that the party will “work to defeat you,” igniting a firestorm in Green ranks. Paul was called on to disavow Zatzman’s comments, but never did.
In a response to a question from The CJN on how the Israeli-Palestinian issue now fits with the party’s policies, Paul said she once worked for the International Criminal Court and cited other foreign policy bona fides.
“I rarely get asked about that and it’s very frustrating,” she said. “I bring something to the table when I make a statement on behalf of our party (and it’s) always in line with our policies.”
In the case of Israel-Palestine or any other conflict, the principles “are always the same: de-escalation in the immediate term in order to protect civilians and prevent loss of human life, and then a return to negotiations to resolve the underlying issues related to the conflict.”
She said that must happen “in a context of respect for international law and accountability for those who don’t, and the international community will always have a role to play in making sure that anyone who violates international law is brought back into compliance with it.”
Paul said that in her term as leader, she has made only two statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It’s a question of whether I will be judged for my actions and what I have actually said, or whether other things which I’m very proud of and also took a toll, like the fact that I’m a Jewish woman, enter into play.”
Being critical of Israel “is not anti-Semitism,” Paul said. “It absolutely is not. I have never suggested it is. But I will say that it’s been very difficult to see the questioning of my commitment to international law and human rights in this or any context.”