Green leader Annamie Paul rejects calls to resign as party tees up non-confidence vote

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is brushing off calls for her ouster as the party’s governing body lines up a future vote that could see her removed from her post.

In a press conference Tuesday, Paul she was given a “strong mandate” and has been given “instructions” to continue to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery, despite internal disputes that have left some members questioning her leadership.

The head of the Green Party of Quebec told CTVNews.ca there is an “open contestation” of Paul’s direction by membership, management, and candidates.

“Annamie Paul has not pursued a unification process following her election as leader of the party about eight months ago,” Alex Tyrrell said on Tuesday. “There’s a bit of a communication problem and [she] is going against a lot of important values to Green Party members.”

He said there will be meeting tonight to discuss the situation and the federal council will vote “on non-confidence probably in 30 days from now.”

Calls for her removal surfaced following the decision by former Green MP Jenica Atwin to cross the floor and join the Liberal caucus last week.

The “catalyst” for her departure from the party was an internal feud between MPs and a now-outgoing senior adviser to Paul over social media posts related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Atwin had maintained that she stands by her pro-Palestinian position, and was hurt by the accusation made that she was anti-Semitic. She said she’s been told there is a difference of opinion among Liberals and believes there will be an opportunity within her new caucus to have a more “healthy discussion and debate” than was possible with her former team.

On Monday, she struck a different tone, tweeting "Palestinians are suffering. Israelis are also suffering as well as their loved ones in Canada and around the world. No one wins with war. I regret if my choice of words caused harm to those who are suffering."

Paul on Tuesday underscored that she has never had a conversation with Atwin about the Middle East conflict.

“I want to make it extremely clear that Ms. Atwin and I have never had a conversation about Israel and Palestine, one-on-one, ever. I had never while she was an MP for our party ever asked Ms. Atwin to rein in her comments. I have never sanctioned her in any way for her comments,” she said.

“I believe that this a completely manufactured reason for leaving.”

She also placed blame on the Liberal Party for targeting her success by poaching Atwin, stating that above all else, the past week has shown her that her Liberal opponents are willing to do what it takes to win a majority in the next election.

“They are cynical. They are aggressive in pursuit of their majority in the next election,” she said. “They’re willing to sow division, they’re willing to encourage people to turn against their beliefs and they will stop at almost nothing, even if it means suppressing the views of their newest member, even if it means going after the first Black and Jewish woman to be elected to this role.”

She said she spoke with membership last night and expressed that she was open to recognizing her part in the situation that led to Atwin’s departure.

“It’s important for me to grow and learn always as a leader and be humble enough to recognize that, but what I also did tell them was that we have seen, we have heard from the Liberals’ own mouths over the last few days that this was a deliberate, dastardly act by them,” she said.

In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Tuesday, Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly said she is “sorry” Paul perceives this as a Liberal attack.

“That’s certainly not something we are aiming for and we respect her religion, we respect her background, we respect her as a leader and I as a woman, I was extremely happy to see that there was a strong federal party leader in charge of the Green Party,” she said.

“Ms. Atwin’s decision to join the Liberal Party is based on the fact that she believes it’s the best way for her to represent her Fredericton community and we’re very happy to have her part of the team.”

Operation Black Vote Canada, an organization that supports the election of Black people to public office, issued a statement that said the developments represent a “step back” in the mission to enhance diversity in Canadian politics.

“Trailblazing journeys are never easy, and breaking barriers always comes at a cost. However, the experience that Ms. Paul has had to date is inexcusable, and is unlike the experiences of her federal counterparts or predecessor in the Green Party of Canada,” it reads.

With a file from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello.