Human rights lawyer Annamie Paul heads into the ultimate hours of the race to succeed Elizabeth May as leader of the Green Party of Canada because the candidate to beat.
In accordance with figures provided by the party itself, Paul, as of Aug. 31, leads all eight remaining candidates on two key fundraising metrics. She has raised essentially the most money — $186,326 — and has essentially the most contributors — 1,622.
The winner of the race might be announced Saturday night.
In a field remarkable for the variety of each the non-public stories of the candidates in addition to the policies they’re proposing, Paul has tried to position herself in the center, as a form of Green populist who desires to move the party more into the mainstream of Canadian politics.
At one point within the party’s history, it might need been enough for Green politicians to be satisfied in the event that they forced the problems they care about — climate change (obviously) but additionally democratic reform — on to the mainstream political agenda.
No more. Greens, having tasted what’s it wish to hold the balance of power in legislatures in B.C. and Recent Brunswick, at the moment are keen to win more seats.
“We consider that we are able to win seats with integrity, with good public policy, with evidence-based public policy and that’s what it’s about for me,” Paul said in an interview earlier this week.
But as popular as Paul has been with many Green supporters, there have been other Green party members and supporters who’ve attacked her — for being Jewish.
“A lot of the attacks, many of the online hate that I’ve received has really been targeted at my Jewish identity,” Paul said. “And in order a Jewish person and as a Black woman, that form of prejudice isn’t surprising.
“But I’ll say that the extent of vitriol, the persistence of the attacks and the proven fact that it often goes unchecked, that there’s quite a lot of silence around it, and that individuals feel quite comfortable expressing these opinions in very public forums … even for somebody who has experienced this as a lived experience.
“It still takes you aback — you never really quite get used to it.”
Paul’s pitch to Green voters is built on many things.
She isn’t in search of to play identity politics. Indeed, the one concession she’ll make to her personal background is that she is a lady and that, if she is elected, she’s going to, like May before her, be the one female leader of a federal party. (She’d even be the primary Black person to guide a federal party and just the second-ever Jewish leader, after David Lewis of the NDP in 1971.)
However it has been not possible for her to disregard the abuse she’s received for being Jewish.
“I actually have been subjected to what can only be described as an unrelenting onslaught of comments and commentary and trolling online,” she said.
In online fora and elsewhere, Green party members have, for instance, called on reporters to follow her right into a synagogue to see how she and other Jews discuss her candidacy. It is a common anti-Semitic trope grounded in the concept that Jews here in Canada and around the globe are engaging in some form of conspiracy or plot.
Then there are those that suggest she has the next loyalty to the state of Israel, one other common anti-Semitic trope. And, sadly, there are the non-public slurs — slurs which frequently mix in as much anti-Jewish hate as they do anti-Black hate.
If she wins, she’s going to use the facility of her office as leader to push the Green Party to do more to look at and resolve these ugly threads amongst its members.
“There isn’t any query that the Green Party has work to do in addressing racism, anti-Semitism, systemic discrimination in all its forms,” said Paul.
It isn’t the primary time the Green Party has needed to confront problems with anti-Semitism inside its ranks. In 2014, former party president Paul Estrin, also Jewish, quit in disgust after he was attacked by Green Party members for writing a web based article condemning the actions of the terrorist group Hamas.
“One in every of the things I actually loved in regards to the Green Party was that there was a lot of that sharing of opinions and thoughts on so many projects on the environmental facets of things. I believe it’s absolutely appropriate,” Estrin, who isn’t any longer a member of the party, said in a telephone interview this week from Quebec City.
“But in relation to racism, in relation to hate — the Green Party, unfortunately, in my experience, I felt they fall short.”
After which, in 2018, Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal lawyer who, on the time, had been designated because the party’s justice critic, accused two Jewish Liberal MPs — Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt — of being more loyal to Israel than to their prime minister.
Lascaris’ attack was roundly condemned as anti-Semitic by all party leaders — Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, and Jagmeet Singh — while Elizabeth May, then leader of the Greens, called his attack unacceptable. She fired him because the party’s justice critic.
Lascaris, though, was hardly humbled. Indeed, he may be the subsequent leader of the Green Party at the tip of the weekend. He’s second to Paul in relation to fundraising — with $112,069 — and second when it comes to variety of contributors at 958.
Paul and Lascaris were, as of Aug. 31, the one two leadership candidates to lift greater than $100,000.
In 2018, Lascaris wrote a 1,500-word essay defending his accusations against Housefather and Levitt and he refused to apologize. Indeed, he and his supporters said that he had been ‘smeared’ by the response of other party leaders.
In an interview this week, he said his critics ignored the context of his 2018 criticism. “I believe one has to actually get a very good handle on what anti-Semitism is and understand that legitimate criticism of the state of Israel is under no circumstances, shape or form anti-Semitic,” Lascaris said.
Lascaris may even win the leadership race — despite initial attempts by the party’s candidate vetting committee to dam his candidacy. The party’s Leadership Contest Authority cited “public statements on quite a few issues” — without naming those issues — when it first decided he couldn’t run.
Along with his Twitter attack on Housefather and Levitt, Lascaris and his supporters have posted videos where he’s seen or heard to be interrupting Transport Minister Marc Garneau at a press conference in Montreal , interrupting former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler at Concordia University, and, in 2019, heckling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a campaign event accusing him of supporting “apartheid Israel.”
Lascaris’ supporters applaud these actions but mainstream Jewish advocacy groups are concerned about his candidacy specifically and about anti-Semitic elements throughout the Green Party.
“So we all know there’s anti-Semitism on the far right,” said Richard Marceau, a former MP who’s now a vice-president on the Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“There’s also anti-Semitism on the far left and quite a few the novel far-left activists try to take control of the Green Party, hijack the Green Party and and principally push through their their parochial and I’d say dangerous agenda on the Green Party. And it’s worrisome for the Jewish community of Canada.”
Lascaris, for his part, points to a gaggle called Independent Jewish Voices Canada, who’ve supported his candidacy. That group, though, is a comparatively small organization that was arrange in opposition to more mainstream groups corresponding to the CIJA, Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, B’nai Brith Canada and others.
The endorsement of Independent Jewish Voices Canada didn’t sway May.
“My view and the party’s views are solid on this: to the extent that anyone who’s running for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada and who has expressed anti-Semitic views, they shouldn’t have been allowed to run,” May said in an interview this week.
As a former leader — and a comparatively popular one at that— May was asked by the party to refrain from endorsing any candidate but she did ask party supporters to financially support Paul’s candidacy as a part of a campaign “to assist fundraise for candidates who will improve the party’s track record for inclusiveness and variety.”
And supporters of Lascaris have complained that May didn’t abide by a resolution — moved by Lascaris himself — that was adopted by grassroots party members in support of the controversial campaign to “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction” Israeli-owned businesses and assets.
In 2016, Liberals and Conservatives — but not Recent Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois — voted to sentence BDS movements because they’re related to the “demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”
Paul said that she didn’t think it was appropriate for Lascaris to be a candidate for the party’s leadership.
“Not a lot due to what was said, but due to continuous lack of know-how or recognition of the impact,” she said. “There are folks that simply must be educated. They don’t realize the impact of their words. They may not realize the historical implications of that form of comment.
“But once … it’s been explained to you, when you’ve been told what the hurt is, if you happen to proceed to persist in being unwilling to apologize or to acknowledge it, then that’s something else altogether.”