Justin Trudeau is “no ally and no feminist”, the head of Canada’s Green party has alleged, as she denounced a “sexist” and “racist” campaign to oust her as party leader ahead of a looming federal election.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Annamie Paul said efforts to remove her were being led by a handful of Green party veterans “who are on their way out” and didn’t reflect the majority who elected her as leader in October.
The mounting crisis within the party comes after one of the Green’s three federal MPs defected to Trudeau’s Liberal party last week.
The New Brunswick lawmaker Jenica Atwin joined the Liberals following a disputewith Paul’s former senior aide over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many within the party – including the two remaining MPs – have blamed the defection on Paul’s handling of the situation.
An internal party letter, leaked to the media, said Paul’s leadership was one of “autocratic attitude of hostility, superiority and rejection, failing to assume her duty to be an active, contributing, respectful [and] attentive” party member.
The letter also alleges that Paul “displayed anger in long, repetitive, aggressive monologues and has failed to recognize the value of any ideas except her own”.
This week, the party called on Paul to denounce her former aide and expressly support the remaining parliamentarians, or face a leadership vote of no confidence next month. Paul declined to address the ultimatum at her press conference on Wednesday.
Instead, she accused the governing Liberals of sowing discord within her party, claiming they were “hellbent” on securing a majority in the election “at almost any cost”.
She also took aim at the prime minister, who has often vaunted his feminist credentials, but also clashed with prominent female members of his cabinet.
The former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former health minister Jane Philpott were both expelled from the Liberals for rebuking Trudeau over a corruption scandal – and the former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has accused the the party of paying lip service to diversity.
“How many times will we allow Justin Trudeau to get away with pushing strong, competent capable women out of politics when they are seeking to serve?” said Paul.
The Princeton-educated lawyer won the Green party’s leadership race in October, making her the first Black leader of a national party in Canada – and the first Jewish woman to hold the post.
Her election was celebrated as a groundbreaking moment in federal politics, but she failed to win a byelection that would give her a seat in parliament, and her tenure has been marred by allegations of racism and sabotage from within the party.
“Trailblazing journeys are never easy, and breaking barriers always comes at a cost,” Operation Black Vote Canada, an advocacy group that works to get more Black Canadians elected, said in a statement, calling Paul’s experiences “inexcusable”.
With a federal election widely expected this fall, Paul still faces the possibility of being removed as leader. If she fails to address the ultimatum from the party, the council is likely to hold a no-confidence vote on 21 July, followed by a meeting of all Green party members the weekend of 21 August.
But on Wednesday, she remained defiant.
“When people like me are elected or appointed to senior leadership roles, the rules of the game seem to change. Suddenly, there is a need for more oversight, accountability, swifter and more severe sanctions, hiving off of responsibilities previously related to the role,” she said.
“Collaboration, and collegiality, does not mean bowing down. It doesn’t mean being brought to heel.”