Photo By: Steve Russel/Toronto Star via Getty Images
On Sept. 27, Annamie Paul stepped down from her role as the leader of Canada’s Green Party. This decision came after the party secured 400,000 votes and two seats in the 2021 federal election, compared to 1.1 million votes in 2019. While it is not uncommon for a party leader to step down after an unfavourable election outcome, Paul’s decision to step down was much more complicated.
Paul was elected leader of the Green Party only one year ago, succeeding Elizabeth May who had led the party since 2006. Paul’s leadership was monumental because she was the first Black Canadian and Jewish woman to serve as the leader of a major political party. However, some members of the party were hesitant to accept her as they were still loyal to May.
This election was especially difficult for Paul, who faced an uphill battle in her riding of Toronto Centre, while the party’s funds were nearly non-existent going into the election. In addition to this, a representative for Paul stated that other party members did not want her visiting their ridings during the campaign. Without any funding or a national campaign manager, Paul was forced to limit her campaign to her own riding where she came in a distant fourth place.
“What people need to realize is that when I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over throughout my time as a leader,” said Paul via Twitter.
While her original platform focused on addressing climate change and systemic discrimination, much of her time as leader of the party was spent resolving conflicts among party members. In fact, Paul received an email from the president of the party’s federal council notifying her that a leadership review was being launched before the final votes had even been tallied on Sept. 20.
“I just asked myself if this was something I wanted to continue, whether I was willing to continue to put up with the attacks I knew would be coming,” said Paul.
Now, instead of undergoing the official leadership review process which would require party members to vote on Paul’s continued leadership, the Green Party will elect an interim leader while arrangements are made for an intra-party election.
Paul’s tenure as the leader of the Green Party has sparked conversations about systemic racism and sexism within politics. Many party members have echoed the sentiment that the way Paul was treated was not entirely based on her job performance, and that there were external factors at play.
While her election as leader was a very important first step, Canadian politics has a long way to go when it comes to embracing and supporting diversity in leadership.