Interview

Why I was fired by Elizabeth May

Ex-justice critic blames Andrew Weaver for Green Party hypocrisy in wake of BDS resolution
Photo: Laurel L. Russwurm

In this exclusive interview with Ricochet, former Green justice critic Dimitri Lascaris explains why Elizabeth May fired him and why he plans to fight on to protect the Greens’ controversial BDS resolution.

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Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, abruptly fired three members of her shadow cabinet on Tuesday. According to an official statement posted to the party’s website, Dimitri Lascaris, Lisa Barrett and Colin Griffiths were expelled from the leadership team for “inappropriate use of a Party position.”

The ultimatum I was given was that I must issue a clear apology to Andrew Weaver or I would be expelled from shadow cabinet.

The alleged transgression of these three senior party members was to join two dozen other Greens in signing an opinion piece released Tuesday morning by the Tyee. The article criticized B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and defended the current policy of the federal party, passed at its July 2016 convention, in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

What happened today?

I’ve been removed from shadow cabinet at the discretion of the leader.

I continue to be a member of the party. In my capacity as a member of the party, I will fight tooth and nail to preserve this resolution, whether I’m in or out of the shadow cabinet. I believe Elizabeth May understands that. I’ve made that abundantly clear. So this does not change my commitment to this resolution and to defend the human rights of the Palestinian people. Not one iota.

How exactly were you informed of this decision by your leader, and what was the explanation given?

I received an email today, in which I was given an ultimatum, shortly after the Tyee op-ed appeared. And the ultimatum I was given was that I must issue a clear apology to Andrew Weaver or I would be expelled from shadow cabinet.

Let’s be clear: Andrew Weaver has taken the lead, within and outside the party, in trying to gut this resolution.

Elizabeth May, I think it’s fair to say, views the Tyee op-ed as an attack on Andrew Weaver. I strenuously disagree that this was an attack on Andrew Weaver. But she felt that it was necessary for me to apologize. I refused categorically to do so, and at that point I found out that I was to be expelled from shadow cabinet.

The way it came to my attention was when Peter O’Neil from the Vancouver Sun asked me to comment. That's how I learned of it.

Editors’ note: Lascaris declined to speak to the Sun, citing "the media company’s coverage of matters relating to Israel’s human rights record." This is his first public statement on the firing.

Have you spoken to Mr. Weaver?

At a certain point it became clear to me that the B.C. Green Party was placing significant pressure on the leadership of the Green Party of Canada to dilute, if not rescind altogether, the BDS resolution.

Let’s be clear: Andrew Weaver has taken the lead, within and outside the party, in trying to gut this resolution.

So two weeks ago I reached out to Mr. Weaver privately. I asked if he had some time to chat about the BDS resolution. And he flatly refused to talk to me. He wasn’t even willing to have a telephone conversation.

Is he a member of the federal Green Party?

I’m almost certain he’s not. He’s not even a member, let alone someone who has responsibility for policy-making within the party, as the shadow cabinet does.

I think it's absolutely outrageous to say that I and others who supported this resolution are anti-Semites.

At the point he refused to speak to me, I told him very politely what I thought of his criticisms in a message. He responded by alleging that the BDS resolution is discriminatory. I took that as an accusation that I and the others who support this resolution are anti-Semites. I think it's absolutely outrageous to say that I and others who supported this resolution, including devout members of the Jewish community, are anti-Semites. It's unacceptable.

I felt that someone had to respond to his criticism. No one was responding publicly. Certainly Elizabeth May has not responded. To my knowledge, she has never articulated a defence of the persons who supported this resolution publicly, in response to Mr. Weaver's criticisms. I felt that this was something that we needed to respond to, and that's how the Tyee op-ed came about.

What are you hearing from party members?

I've received approximately 3,000 emails about this resolution, and I've read them all; 95 per cent of them at least are highly supportive. Nobody in the party leadership is talking about those voices. It's as though they don't exist. I know that the vast majority of them were sent to Elizabeth May as well.

There are thousands of people that have communicated with the party and have told the party they are very supportive of this resolution, and our leadership has never acknowledged that those voices are out there.

Somebody had to speak up.

Elizabeth May has argued that the BDS resolution shouldn’t count because it was decided without consensus, but that would apply to virtually everything done at that convention, right?

Let's be clear. We all know what's going on here. If the resolution had been defeated at the convention, the party's leadership would not be complaining about the absence of consensus.

The objective of the meeting is undeniably to gut this resolution, or at least water it down to the point where the apologists for Netanyahu's government stop attacking us.

The reason we're having a meeting in December [to reconsider the resolution] is because the BDS resolution passed. It's not because there was an absence of consensus.

People should stop pretending that that isn't the reason we're having this meeting. The objective of the meeting is undeniably to gut this resolution, or at least water it down to the point where the apologists for Netanyahu's government stop attacking us.

What do you see happening with the resolution?

Elizabeth has acknowledged that this is a validly adopted resolution, so it is current party policy. And by the way, we have an obligation under the constitution of our party to defend party policy.

That's all the Tyee op-ed was. It was done pursuant to our constitutional obligation to defend party policy.

And because it is validly adopted party policy, if somebody wants to alter this resolution, they're going to have to get a minimum of 60 per cent of the people present at that convention [in December] to vote in favour of an alternative.

How do you respond to accusations the party was hijacked by one-issue activists?

Elizabeth was quoted in the Globe and Mail saying the resolution was passed because people joined the party strictly in order to ensure that this resolution passed.

The only people that we can count on, in this country, to give an honest accounting of what's happening in the occupied territories, are the independent media.

I don't know of any people who joined the party just to see this resolution passed. There are 32 sponsors of this resolution, and the vast majority are longstanding members of the party who have advocated for many different causes over the years other than Palestinian rights. This was adopted because people heard extensive debate on the convention floor, including from some very eloquent members of the Jewish community in favour of BDS. That's why they adopted it.

Any final thoughts?

There is almost no concern within the mainstream media in this country for the suffering of the Palestinian people, and it's a complete disgrace. The only people that we can count on, in this country, to give an honest accounting of what's happening in the occupied territories, are the independent media. That's the truth.

Until the mainstream media begins to do justice to this issue, we're going to have a very difficult time persuading the political class in this country to do the right thing, and to stand up for a people who are being brutalized.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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