Speaking publicly for the first time about her party's internal strife, former Green party leader Elizabeth May is urging those who oppose leader Annamie Paul to strike a truce with her allies before a widely anticipated fall election.
"I fully support the Green Party of Canada, our values and our constitution," she said in a media statement today. "Our leader is Annamie Paul and only our members have authority to call that into question.
"We need to pull together for what appears to be an imminent election campaign."
May's comments came a day after Paul held a press conference in Toronto and urged her opponents within the party to unite behind her for the coming election.
"I want to lead us into the next election. I want to offer my service to our members and to Canada and I'm hoping that those that feel otherwise will wait until a more appropriate time to make a move," Paul said Monday.
The conflict between Paul and elements in her party hit a crisis point in May when, during an escalation of violence in the Middle East, Paul issued a statement calling for de-escalation and a return to dialogue.
Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin, who left the Green party for the Liberals in June, called Paul's statement "totally inadequate." Her departure left the Greens with just two MPs.
Paul's political adviser at the time, Noah Zatzman, said in a May 14 Facebook post that he had experienced antisemitism and discrimination within the party and criticized politicians he said were displaying antisemitism, including Green MPs.
He wrote that he would work to "bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!"
Federal council vs. Paul
The party's federal council told Paul she had to publicly repudiate Zatzman's comments in order to avoid a confidence vote. She has refused to do so and the party now seems to have settled into a truce.
Today, May told The Tyee that she believes the failure to address Zatzman's antisemitism claims led directly to Atwin's defection.
"To me, that's deeply shocking that was allowed to happen without him being reprimanded and immediately removed. This was not a grey area. This was a serious transgression for anyone in any leader's office in any party in the history of any democracy that I can think of," May told The Tyee.
"It was deeply unacceptable. That's why we lost Jenica."
In her statement today, May said she was deeply troubled by Atwin's departure and the rest of the party felt the same way — but "the misplaced anger, blame and name-calling that have followed it are doing even more damage than the event itself."
May said she hadn't spoken out about the internal party strife before now because Paul had asked her not to wade in, fearing that her 13 years at the party's helm could influence the debate too greatly.
May also said that she has not been involved in the party's internal arguments and has no role with the party's federal council or any of the party's subcommittees.
"Rumours have prompted media to continue to ask for clarification if I am playing some role in party matters. I have no role — official or unofficial — in any of the Green Party governing bodies," May said.