The 2019 Canadian federal election was something of a disappointment for the Green Party, then-led by Elizabeth May, earning only 3 seats in the House of Commons and leading confidence in May to dip.
As of late, Canadian politics are ignored while most look to the whirlwind of American politics that is widely covered by mainstream media. However, as a Canadian, it is important for me to keep up with what is happening in my own federal system. When it comes time for myself to vote, I want to feel confident in my choice of someone that truly represents my interests.
In Canada, the Green Party often acts as the underdog that few see as a viable winner, which is possibly a result of limited media coverage or their leadership simply not being what the party needed.
Enter Annamie Paul, a Black, Jewish lawyer and mother of two from Toronto, and the first permanent Black leader of a Canadian Federal party. Coming from a family of Caribbean immigrants and being the daughter of a teacher, Paul prides herself on her environmental and social justice activism. She is multilingual, speaking 4 languages: English, French, Spanish and Catalan. Paul won the leadership election in its arduous eighth ballot, but the questions on most people’s minds remain: What exactly are Paul’s values, and what might she bring to the Canadian political scene?
Annamie Paul is an advocate for diversity, believing that having Black and Indigenous people of colour speaking on issues – like policing and the justice system – reduces the opportunity for poor decisions to be made. Paul speaks on eradicating cut-corners in health care and long-term care after an incorrectly-placed catheter killed her father earlier this year in a case of sepsis. As a Jewish woman, she is outspoken on anti-Semitism, which she has faced in her own leadership race. Most notably, she is adamant that her being the first Black permanent leader of a Canadian party is far overdue, and she hopes that she will pave the way for more Black leaders in the future. She is most passionate about the climate crisis and the way it’s been handled by other politicians, stating that “they are intellectually exhausted and they are out of ideas,” but the question if Paul can be a true driver of change still stands.
Already, she has faced a blockade as other parties are refusing to return ‘leader’s courtesy’ in her upcoming byelection, in which parties opt not to run candidates in byelections if another party’s leader is also running. Despite the Green Party affording NDP leader Jagmeet Singh this courtesy in the last byelection, the favour has not been returned to Paul. However, in Paul’s words, “I’m a first, and as a first you’re accustomed to fighting, you’re accustomed to have to overcome every single barrier, to get to where you’re trying to go.”
It’s evident that Annamie Paul is here to make an impact, making it clear where she stands when she described her ambition to “turn that opposition into proposition.” It seems that with enough support, Paul may be the decisive and strong leader that the Green Party needs to move their goals into action.
Only time will tell if voters will want to move forward with Paul into the “more just, more inclusive society” that she sees as a possibility. But, in the meantime, we can cheer on the first permanent Black leader of a Canadian party and question why this is only happening now, when Paul may be exactly what Canada’s Green Party has needed all along.