Paul’s treatment exposes Green Party’s mud pit of institutional toxicity

    Jul 14, 2021

    OTTAWA—The “Conservatives in tree pose” are not respecting their chakras. Instead, they’re a mud pit of institutional toxicity. 

    In October 2020, the Green Party elected Canada’s first Black and first Jewish female leader, which was a shot in the arm of the paltry representation in decision-making roles across the country. As I have written before, “for women of colour entering non-profit organizations … they go from being valued as a tokenized subject used to fulfill the organization’s diversity mandate, to experiencing the realities of a white-dominated space.” And the Greens are no different. As much as the very white and male Green Party wanted to show itself as inclusive, the way it’s played out is quite typical of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour) experiences in the workplace. And this experience is gendered. 

    It is unclear the original sin that Paul committed. As Canadian Dimension tells the story, when Israel and Palestine exploded this year, the Greens reverted to the perceived safety of bothsidesism. MP Jenica Atwin—in defiance of her party’s official statement—responded by saying, “ ‘I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable airstrikes in Gaza. End Apartheid!’ In response, Noah Zatzman, Paul’s advisor, posted on social media that [NDP Leader Jagmeet] Singh, [former Green leadership candidate Dimitri] Lascaris and implicitly Atwin were anti-Semitic, and that he would ‘work to defeat’ Atwin and Paul Manly (another Green MP sympathetic to the idea that Palestinians are human beings).” This was seen as the driving force behind Atwin’s departure. 

    Shots fired.

    Now Liberal MP Jenica Atwin, pictured during a press conference with the Green caucus on Jan. 28, 2020.


    Only, where did she depart to? Not to the NDP, which broke with its traditional bothsidesism when Singh tweeted: “The threatened evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah of East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan—or any other day—is deeply troubling. Illegal occupation, demolitions, and forced evictions must end. PM Trudeau must take a stand and uphold International law.”


    No, that would’ve shown loyalty to one’s values and convictions. Instead, Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberal Party, which historically and currently has been pro-Israel. According to Neil Moss’ reporting in this paper, “the Liberals have made a calculation that they can continue to back Israel while keeping its fragile coalition together.” In addition, four days after crossing the floor, Atwin changed her entire position on this issue. As the Globe and Mail reports: “New Liberal MP Jenica Atwin has changed her position on Israel to more closely align with her new party, less than a week after she said defecting from the Greens would not change her position on the issue.” She had also scrubbed her Twitter account of any defence of the Palestinian cause, proving that crossing the floor didn’t come without a cost to her integrity—a price she was more than willing to pay. 

    But the rules change once a Black woman earns her position of power. Referring to my aforementioned previous article: “When she attempts to confront these dynamics, ‘both the organization as a whole and individuals within it will deny her experiences of racism. In fact, her attempt to address these dynamics can often become the arsenal for retaliation: the racialized woman becomes the source of the problem. She is viewed as no longer being ‘a good fit’ or ‘not qualified.’” And that’s exactly what’s happened with Paul. 

    Many will counter my assessment by stating that she should’ve apologized for Zatzman’s Facebook post, yet he’s already gone. Did Doug Ford apologize for his picture with known white supremacists, including Faith Goldy? One would think the apology should come from Zatzman himself, so what is confusing is we are demanding from a Black woman what we don’t expect from white men. This is misogynoir. As I explained in the Globe and Mail: “The term, introduced into the lexicon by queer feminist scholar Moya Bailey, is ‘an attempt to force black women into boxes and make us more palatable. It’s the idea that we should never scream, never fight, never take ownership of ourselves, because the minute we do, we’ll be painted as ‘angry black women’ and dismissed.’” And that’s exactly what happened. CBC News obtained a copy of a letter that prompted the Greens’ attempt to remove Paul from leadership. The letter stated that she “has displayed anger in long, repetitive, aggressive monologues and has failed to recognize the value of any ideas except her own.” 

    That wording sounds a lot like racial stereotypes rooted in slavery. As Wikipedia explains: “The Sapphire stereotype is a domineering female who consumes men and usurps their role. She was characterized as a strong, masculine workhorse who laboured with Black men in the fields or an aggressive woman.” The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University extended the history of the caricature: “It was not until the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show that the characterization of African American women as domineering, aggressive, and emasculating shrews became popularly associated with the name Sapphire.” And they did so in blackface, so eventually, all roads actually do lead back to the prime minister. 

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.