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Greens should investigate Annamie Paul’s racism claims, says leadership contender

Annamie Paul is the first Black, Jewish woman to lead a mainstream federal party in Canada
A supporter holds a sign for the Green Party of Canada as a group of candidates and supporters marched towards a discussion on climate in Toronto on September 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

A Green activist who came second to Annamie Paul in the last leadership race says he is being urged by many to stand again.

Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal-based lawyer, is “vacillating” about whether to throw his hat into the ring in the race for party leader. He said he is receiving messages from across the party calling on him to run.

Lascaris, who was critical of Paul during her short tenure as leader, told The Canadian Press that it was “really important” for the Greens not to “dwell on the past year.”

The Greens saw their support plummet in the Sept. 20 election, returning just two MPs after months of infighting and sniping at Paul.

Lascaris said party members “forgot how to speak to each other in a respectful manner.”

He said the “No. 1 job” of the new leader “will be to engage in a form of conversation that is actively respectful.”

He wants independent consultants to investigate Paul’s “claims of racial bias” while leader, admitting that the Greens have “challenges when it comes to diversity.” He said a probe by consultants specializing in racial bias is needed to “get to the bottom of what happened” and they should be given full access to emails and internal party communications.

Paul is the first Black, Jewish woman to lead a mainstream federal party in Canada and has said she suffered discrimination while in the post.

Announcing her decision to stand down on Monday, she said her time leading the Greens was the worst period of her life.

Paul was elected leader in 2020, with Lascaris, a self-professed socialist, coming second in the leadership race. At first Lascaris was barred from standing for the leadership by the Greens — he says because of his “political orientation” — but he appealed and was permitted to stand.

Lascaris stood as a Green parliamentary candidate in the 2015 federal election. He said he is currently weighing whether to run for Green leader again.

“I am being encouraged by many people to run, on all sorts of platforms. I will make a decision in the next several days,” he said.

Lascaris posted a statement saying it was the “right decision” for the Green Party for Paul to resign. She was criticized for failing to visit target ridings during the election and for concentrating on fighting for a Toronto riding where she came fourth.

Paul has pointed to a lack of funding, campaign staff or a national campaign manager. Originally $250,000 was earmarked for her local campaign but that money was nixed by party executives.

Other Greens have posted messages of support for Paul.

Dr. Courtney Howard, who came third after Paul and Lascaris in the last leadership race, tweeted that it meant a lot to have a “strong, intelligent, articulate woman on the stage.”

The Yukon doctor said she wanted to concentrate on fighting COVID-19 and climate change, rather than entering the race for leader.

Mike Morrice, the new MP for Kitchener Centre, also ruled himself out of a leadership bid.

Morrice told The Canadian Press he wants to concentrate on representing his constituents and fighting for issues such as affordable housing in the House of Commons, rather than “being a party spokesman.”

David Merner, who stood last year to be party leader against Paul, also said he would not run. He told The Canadian Press he would focus instead on sorting out the party’s money issues, as a board member of the Green Party of Canada Fund, which is responsible for financial and legal matters.

He said the Greens have “expenses far exceeding fundraising” and the final bill for the election was not yet known.

Glen Murray, a former Liberal minister in Ontario, who came fourth in the Green leadership race in 2020, told CBC he does not intend to run this time.

Before a permanent leader is chosen the Greens will appoint an interim leader to take the helm.

A spokeswoman for Elizabeth May has said the former Green leader would consider stepping in as a temporary caretaker if she is asked to by the troubled party.

Paul will step down formally as leader within “the coming weeks,” the Green party has confirmed. A leadership race kicks off six months after an interim leader is selected.

Professor Mark Winfield of York University who researches the Greens said May would be the “obvious option” as caretaker leader, during the party’s “existential” crisis.

Jo-Ann Roberts, a former broadcast journalist who served as interim leader after May stood down, is another figure the Greens’ ruling council is likely to consider as caretaker.

Paul did not respond to requests for comment.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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