Green Party members have chosen Toronto lawyer and human rights activist Annamie Paul as their next leader, bringing to a close the year-long race to replace Elizabeth May.
Paul, who is Black and Jewish, was the perceived frontrunner heading into the final vote because she had raised the most money — $206,000 — and racked up a number of endorsements from former Green Party candidates.
Paul, who is the first Black permanent leader of a major federal political party in Canada, assumes the leadership of a party that has been closely tied to May for the better part of the last 14 years.
Before handing the job to Paul, May delivered an impassioned plea to Canadians to do more to address the climate crisis, saying the ongoing fight against COVID-19 can’t distract from pressing environmental concerns.
Paul, who was born in Canada to Caribbean immigrants, claimed victory with 12,090 votes against her closest competitor, Dimitri Lascaris, another lawyer and a self-described radical and “eco-socialist,” who had 10,081 votes after eight rounds of voting.
A party official said 23,877 Green voters cast a ballot in this race — a 69 per cent turnout.
Paul, one of the more moderate candidates who contested this leadership election, ran on a robust environmental agenda that she says will help Canada fight climate change, which she has called “an existential threat to human life.”
“You have matched a leader to the challenges of this time. We need to match the party to the needs of this moment. That party is the Green Party of Canada. We are the party for this moment,” she said in her victory speech.
“The other parties are simply out of ideas. They are intellectually exhausted. This is a moment that demands daring, courageous leadership and this is something that we simply didn’t see in the last speech from the throne,” she said. “I only heard empty words.”
Paul, a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Ottawa, was the subject of racist and anti-semitic attacks during this campaign.
At a virtual town hall, commenters used the word ‘N’ several times and referred to her and another candidate as a ‘f-ing Jew’ in a live chat.
Paul is the first Black permanent leader of a major federal party and only the second Jewish person to hold such a job; former NDP leader David Lewis was the first. Paul has said there needs to better representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour in Canadian politics.
Paul said her victory was possible because of trailblazers like Lewis and Rosemary Brown, the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party.
Brown, a Jamaica-born Black woman, broke colour barriers when she ran a close second to Ed Broadbent in the 1975 NDP federal leadership campaign.