Green Party of Canada Leadership Assessment

CJPME___IJV_GPC_ASSESSMENT.pngCanadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), both non-partisan organizations, have conducted a comprehensive analysis of each of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) leadership candidates on key Canadian policy issues related to the Middle East. This process included issuing a questionnaire to all candidates, although not every candidate chose to respond. The document presented below assesses the possible direction of the GPC on the Middle East under the leadership of each of the different candidates.

Click here to download the full report from CJPME and IJV. The executive summary is presented below.

Executive Summary

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), both non-partisan organizations, have conducted a comprehensive analysis of each of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) leadership candidates on key Canadian policy issues related to the Middle East.

Most important in making this assessment was a questionnaire issued to each of the leadership candidates in July. The questionnaire had 10 questions, and the candidates were asked to identify their stances on a scale (usually between 1 and 5). Candidates were encouraged to provide additional written comments if they desired.     

More than half of the leadership candidates (5 out of 9) responded to the questionnaire. Two of the candidates (Glen Murray and Annamie Paul) declined to submit responses (see Appendices B and C). The two remaining candidates (Andrew West and Courtney Howard) did not submit responses, but neither did they officially decline.

In addition to the questionnaire, our assessment of the candidates incorporated information gathered from a number of different sources: social media, press statements, published interviews, leadership town halls, the Hansard (the record of parliamentary debates), the candidates' campaign websites, and more.

Based on all of the information collected, CJPME and IJV have determined that—in terms of their commitment to a constructive approach to the Middle East by Canada—the candidates rank as follows:

  • A      Dimitri Lascaris
  • A-     Meryam Haddad
  • B+     Judy Green
  • B+     Amita Kuttner
  • B       David Merner
  • C+     Courtney Howard
  • C+     Andrew West
  • C       Glen Murray        
  • C-      Annamie Paul

While the Green Party has always had a small presence within Parliament, it nonetheless has an important voice and a role to play in shaping Canadian discourses on the Middle East. The issue of Israel and Palestine has historically been controversial within the party, with a major flashpoint being the 2016 grassroots vote to endorse the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, over which Elizabeth May threatened to resign as leader. This pro-BDS resolution was ultimately replaced by a “compromise” resolution on Israel and Palestine that was actually sharper and more focused than the original—a resolution calling for specific sanctions on Israel, beginning with a ban on the importation of settlement products. As a result, current GPC policy remains far stronger and bolder than that of any other major political party.

Under Elizabeth May, the GPC has been a leader in Parliament on these important issues (with some exceptions), offering a relatively bold voice in support of human rights and justice. Under a future leader, it is unknown whether this role will remain. The party has an opportunity to expand on its principled positions, or it could retreat and adopt an approach that is more closely aligned with the pro-Israel stances of other parties. Both of these options are represented among the various leadership candidates in this race, making this vote a very important one.

Dimitri Lascaris has an extensive public record of support for Middle East issues as a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and BDS supporter, and he has made foreign policy a distinguishing part of his campaign. His questionnaire responses indicate bold support for concrete action in response to human rights violations, on par with only Meryam Haddad, and he has prompted a discussion between candidates on issues including the CJPME-IJV pledge to oppose Israeli annexation. We are confident that as GPC leader, Lascaris would be a consistent and enthusiastic voice for international law and Palestinian human rights, and he would be responsive to the grassroots movements which he has worked alongside for so long.

Meryam Haddad demonstrates a commitment to urgent and drastic action on a range of important issues, from the arms trade to Islamophobia to free speech on Palestine. She is more outspoken against Israeli annexation than most other candidates, and she has freely brought up the topic of sanctions on several occasions. Her questionnaire responses indicate support for creative and meaningful approaches to achieving justice in the Middle East, on par with only Dimitri Lascaris. While she does not have a significant previous record on Middle East issues, as Lascaris does, she has nonetheless used her candidacy as a platform to champion these causes. With Haddad, the GPC would be a strong and bold voice for human rights, and a friend to non-violent grassroots movements.

Judy Green frequently criticizes Canada for giving a “friends and family discount” to human rights violators, and her thoughtful questionnaire responses stress the need for a consistent application of international law. Along these lines, Green supports taking concrete measures to challenge Israeli violations, although her positions—for example, in favour of labeling but not banning settlement goods—are less bold than those of several other candidates. Green shows a commitment to free speech on Palestine, wants to phase-out Canada’s international arms trade, and would expand immigration supports to accommodate climate migrants. Under Green’s leadership, the GPC would continue to address Middle East issues through a principled human rights lens, and countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel would not be given exceptional treatment.

Amita Kuttner supports concrete action in response to human rights violations in the Middle East, and they bring a thoughtful decolonial lens to many of these issues. Their questionnaire responses are bold philosophically, although they tend to emphasize a nuanced, more cautious approach to implementation, from phasing out the arms trade to sanctions on Israel. Kuttner expresses principled opposition to conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism, but hesitates to label such efforts as a threat to free speech, and has made remarks about not sowing division—which in context may be an allusion to boycotts of Israel. Should Kuttner become leader of the GPC, the party would likely not be as outspoken on Middle East issues as under other candidates, but it would certainly continue to be an important advocate for justice and Indigenous rights everywhere.

David Merner has not often spoken about Middle East issues, but he has pledged to oppose Israeli annexation, and his questionnaire responses show a commitment to real action against human rights abuses. Merner’s policy positions on Israel and Palestine have real substance, yet these tend to be more moderate than some other candidates—for example, he supports current GPC policy in favour of a ban on all settlement goods, but he does not support going further to cancel the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. Of additional concern are his recent comments referring to BDS supporters as a “bunch of extremists,” and his plea to the GPC not to “divide among ourselves around issues that aren’t core to us.” These comments may indicate a tense relationship between the party and grassroots activists in the future. In this way, Merner would likely not be much of a departure from previous GPC leadership.

Courtney Howard’s candidacy for GPC leader is difficult to assess, as she did not complete our questionnaire, and has no meaningful public record on foreign policy generally, or regarding the Middle East specifically. She has, however, endorsed the CJPME/IJV pledge to oppose Israeli annexation, which calls on the Canadian government to consider all reasonable diplomatic and economic options to stop annexation. It is unlikely that Howard would make foreign policy or Middle East issues a priority as GPC leader.

 Andrew West does not have a meaningful public record on foreign policy generally, or regarding the Middle East specifically. Neither did he submit responses to our questionnaire. He has, however, expressed support for current GPC policy on Palestine, and talked about the need for Canada to take a strong stand against human rights violators. He is one of only two GPC candidates not to endorse the pledge to oppose Israeli annexation, but has credited this to a lack of time, rather than principle. It is unlikely that the GPC would make foreign policy a priority under West’s leadership.

 Glen Murray’s overall record on Middle East issues is complicated, and rather difficult to assess as he declined to submit responses to our questionnaire. The fact that he pledged to oppose Israeli annexation is a positive sign that he may support concrete action to avert violations of international law, and he has at times made sympathetic comments about the Palestinian people. However, his commitment to stand with Israel, his 2016 vote to condemn the BDS movement, and his general refusal to engage in discussion on these issues beyond a shallow reference to a two-state solution, should be major red flags for anyone who wants the GPC to take a proactive role in advancing justice in the region.

Annamie Paul is a foreign policy expert, but she has not been very forthcoming with her own positions on the Middle East, and she declined to submit responses to our questionnaire. While she is on record opposing Israel annexation as illegal, she is one of only two GPC candidates who did not endorse the anti-annexation pledge, and she has generally pursued a neutral “both sides are at fault” approach to the conflict. She supports sanctions against Saudi Arabia but has not expressed support for any form of economic pressure against Israel, and instead is opposed to the BDS movement. There is a real concern that under Paul’s leadership the GPC’s foreign policy would not look much different than that of Trudeau’s Liberals, and the party would likely be quite dismissive, even hostile, towards social movements and other foreign policy critics.

Click here to download the full report.