Annamie Paul talks about why she resigned from the Greens—and what’s next

Annamie Paul speaking at a virtual event sponsored by CJPAC

Former Green Party Leader Annamie Paul broke her silence after a federal election campaign plagued with party infighting and allegations of racism, sexism and antisemitism, at a virtual event Nov. 30 where she discussed the incidents that led to her resignation from the party.

“It was painful for me and I’m betting it was painful for a lot of people who felt prematurely pushed out of politics,” Paul said at a program hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.

Political commentator David Herle, who was a top advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Martin and a chief campaign strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada moderated the event, which was Paul’s first public appearance since her resignation.

Paul, a lawyer, former diplomat, and social entrepreneur, is the first Black Canadian and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of a federal party in Canadian history. After a difficult campaign, which saw her budget stripped and legal challenges from the Green Party executive, she submitted her resignation in October, after not winning a seat in Parliament during this year’s federal election.

Herle asked Paul about the position of her critics within the Green Party towards Israel. “There are many people who joined the party for many different reasons,” Paul said. “There are some who have very genuine, heartfelt and legitimate criticisms of some of the policies of the State of Israel, and there are others that use criticism towards the State of Israel or Zionism as cover for antisemitism, and everything in between.

“My experience over the last couple of years is that it has become easier and easier to say more and more hateful, inflammatory, provocative things about the Jewish community with impunity. We can go on any given day and see examples of that all over social media. I think that should be a real concern to everyone that wants to see hate defeated, because it certainly has been emboldened over the last period of time.”

Paul, who first decided to seek political leadership over two years ago, holds a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ottawa.  She refused to comment definitively on trends in antisemitism tied to political allegiance, and pointed out that, according to recent data, such hatred can be found on all ends of the political spectrum.  

Paul explained that the reasons for her resignation were a lack of internal support, disorganization of delegative power, and general incohesiveness throughout the Green Party. “The model is really one where the Leader is the chief spokesperson,” she said.  

She claimed that she was not granted the ability to appoint the political director, communications director, the executive director, the funding director, or any positions of power beyond her chief of staff and those who worked in her office. “I had none of those powers whatsoever… I really had to inherit the infrastructure that was there and my former job was really to try and communicate effectively the policies of our members.”

Paul also explained that pandemic restrictions had a significant impact on her campaign. “I really wanted to be out there all the time, everywhere across the country. I think that when you become the leader of a national party, and you’re unknown—I was under no illusion: no one knew me from Adam—that my job really was going to be to be out there all the time, criss-crossing the country, meeting our members, connecting with Canadians.

“We tried so many times. We planned itineraries and made tentative reservations, and then there would be a lockdown and we just couldn’t do that sort of travel.”

Herle asked Paul if her Jewish faith played a role in her decision to enter the political arena. “It’s so important if you’re going to make the leap into organized politics and join a party to really try not to have your beliefs, your values, your principles, in conflict with your political life,” she said.

“For me, being part of a community that believes very much in our interconnectedness, very much in the influence we have on each other—you know tikkun olam is a very big concept in the Jewish community—certainly means that politics can be an extension of that. And for me, I wanted my political life to reflect my personal values and beliefs.”

Paul explained that she is uncertain about her political future, and is currently ascribing to the widespread advice to “not think about it too much.”

Canada is currently in a pattern of minority governments, which is an unfortunate development she said.

“We certainly have designed a lot of elaborate technology that allows us to micro-target our voters. We don’t have to appeal to the general public in the same way we did before in order to win elections.

“It’s becoming easier and easier to take the safe road—so much of the focus is on creating that winning coalition of votes across the country, that parties aren’t willing to take the same risks that they have before.

“And that’s a pity because it really is a total contradiction to what we need at this moment, which really are big, bold, innovative ideas to tackle unprecedented challenges.”

CJPAC, which organized the talk, is a national, independent organization with a mandate to engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process.