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Former Green leader criticized for saying Paul calls racism ‘when she doesn’t get her way’

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OTTAWA — Former Green Party leader Jim Harris is accusing Annamie Paul of using her experience of racism and sexism as excuses for what he calls her poor performance over the last year — comments that Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson calls “disgusting.”

In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play airing on Monday regarding the recent departure of Paul from the post after a disappointing election outcome, Harris questioned the embattled leader’s reasoning for leaving.

“When she doesn’t get her way, she calls racism. Now, racism, sexism, and violent metaphors like walking over shards of glass and spitting up blood get headlines, but what we have to judge a leader by their performance and Annamie’s performance as leader has resulted in the Green Party’s worst performance in 20 years,” he said.

In a separate interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Monday, Hudson said Harris’ comments were outrageous.

“What a disgusting thing to say,” she said. “What a terrible thing to say. It is really difficult when you experience racism…to say publicly, ‘This is something I’ve experienced and this is real.’ Why? Because those of us who experience racism know that we’re going to go through exactly this: people trying to say that we’re making it up,” she said.

Paul announced a week ago that she was resigning, calling the year being at the helm of the party “the worst period” in her life. She described a constant barrage of pushback from the party’s governing body.

When she became leader in October 2020, Paul made history as the first Jewish woman and first Black woman to be elected leader of a major political party in Canada.

“When I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over,” Paul said last Monday.

“When I arrived at that debate stage [the English-language 2021 leaders’ debate] I had crawled over that glass, I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there. I was determined to be there so that the next time someone like me thinks of running and wonders whether it’s possible to be on that stage, they will know that it is possible to do that.”

In the 2021 federal vote, Paul failed to win a seat, or grow the Greens’ seat count in the House of Commons.

Moreover, the Greens saw a significant drop in their share of the popular vote, after only managing to put a Green candidate on the ballot in 252 of the 338 ridings.

It was the fewest number of candidates the party had run in a federal election since 2000. The party placed sixth in overall percentage of the vote, dropping to 2.3 per cent from the 6.5 per cent secured in 2019. In 2021 just 398,775 Canadians voted Green, in contrast to the 1,189,631 votes secured in 2019.

Paul has fought ardently against internal criticisms of her leadership style, suggesting they were based in racism and sexism.

Harris, who led the party from 2003 to 2006, says he saw events unfold differently.

“Annamie Paul gets elected and she demands a quarter of a million dollars a year compensation, she demands control over communications, she demands control over hiring and firing her staff, she demands control over the website,” he said.

“When the leadership body of the party did not immediately agree to these demands, the claims went out … it was racism and sexism.”

Harris said he doesn’t doubt Paul faced “barriers” but added she needs to be held accountable for the party’s election performance.

“It’s not about women or diversity, it’s about accountability and performance,” he said.

Hudson said it was ridiculous to suggest such a new leader could have had so much power to be the cause of the party’s downfall, noting the Green Party has a democratically elected Federal Council – which moved to cut back funding for Paul’s riding campaign.

“When the party has its own democratic apparatus, multiple people who are part of how a campaign runs, and if you’re asking about where the failure lies in performance, it’s much more than any one singular person,” Hudson said. “And to blame it on one singular person, that does pass the sniff test of racism and anti-Blackness, absolutely.”

CTV News reached out to Paul for a response to Harris’ comments but hadn’t received a reply at the time of publication.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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