Amita Kuttner, the newly named interim leader of the Green Party of Canada, says their job is to “heal” the party after months of infighting and strife.
Kuttner, 30, who identifies as nonbinary and transgender, desires to bring an end to internal squabbles and get the party “back on target” before the Greens select their next leader.
The astrophysicist from Vancouver says that, with flooding and climate change devastating the country, Green policies on fixing the planet are crucially needed.
“That is the precise moment that we’d like a Green party, with every thing that is occurring on this planet,” said Kuttner, who was appointed to the role on Wednesday night.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kuttner admitted that some internal party politics had been “very nasty” and that a small minority of party members “have forgotten to treat one another as the total humans that they’re.”
Kuttner revealed they’d personally been the goal of “brutal” transphobia, with Green members questioning not only their pronouns but whether or not they needs to be considered transgender in any respect.
“I would really like people to truly know that I don’t mind in case you mess up my pronouns. I just want you to acknowledge me as a human, an individual, an person who is deserving of respect and dignity,” Kuttner said. They said also they are currently undergoing transition-related medical procedures.
Kuttner said that understanding why people were indignant and what motivated them was a key to resolving conflict, in addition to a “willingness to point out as much as learn.” They said that being so enthusiastic about threats to the planet could affect people’s outlook.
“My approach to healing is trying to search out common ground,” Kuttner said.
“We’re all are on this because we care in regards to the same things. We’re tied together by our values and the indisputable fact that we deeply care about our community.”
Public support for the Greens plummeted within the Sept. 20 election after which Annamie Paul quit as leader. Paul, who’s Black and Jewish, said she was the goal of vitriol, faced racist and sexist accusations from inside the party, and her time as leader was the worst period in her life.
Kuttner said they’re resilient.
“Every part that has been occurring for the last 12 months and the way everybody is feeling within the party — healing is a giant a part of it,” they said.
Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May said Kuttner’s appointment is “definitely a positive development.”
“They’re only a really unusual human being, and I really like working with them. I really like them,” May said.
“And in fact, the groundbreaking elements of being a racialized young one who is non-binary, who’s a genius scientist — you don’t run across people like Amita day-after-day.”
In line with the Green Party’s structure, a leadership contest must start inside six months of the appointment of an interim leader.
May says she hopes the method will “reflect that reality of our values.”
“The job is to be the chief spokesperson, and our membership decides the policies,” May said.
The party has “a whole lot of rebuilding to do,” May added, after “the last disastrous period.”
“I feel so completely happy because I do know that, the minute the interim leader is appointed, I feel like, OK, this is popping the page,” May said.
“Canadians can see the face of individuals within the Green Party, of people who find themselves positive and committed and rebuilding, and that’s what we actually, really desperately needed.”
As leader, Kuttner said they desired to “put in a system to guard ourselves from internal discrimination and external discrimination.” This might include amending the party’s code of conduct so Green members usually are not immediately thrown out but taught about differences and learn how to respect them.
“People say the party as a company shouldn’t be liable for random members having horrible opinions and being willing to harm people, but ultimately, they’re,” Kuttner added.
Kuttner said their “general approach to politics” was collaborative and “consensus-building” to get things done.
Kuttner is the kid of a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and an English father. They said they were “pulled by multiple cultures and traditions” and would “approach things in a different way based on my age and my gender and my race.”
In 2005, Kuttner’s mother was killed and their father was seriously injured after a mudslide crushed their North Vancouver home.
“I just turned 14 once I lost my home and my mother,” they said. They said it was “a rift on my life and my entire neighbourhood.”
The brand new interim leader said they were “committed to learning” within the role.
“Simply because I’m marginalized and have multiple identities, it doesn’t mean I don’t have things to learn and it doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes,” they said.
Kuttner, an authority in black holes, was brought up in Vancouver and educated at a boarding school in California. They gained a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Kuttner said they believed that in future centuries humankind could change into an “interstellar species” travelling to distant planets. But to do that humankind would should work hard to make sure planet earth survives.
“It’s going to take lots of of years and if we’re going to get there we’d like to survive the subsequent few (hundred years) and which means having a lifestyle that is definitely, very literally, sustainable.”
— With files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore