On Tuesday evening Green Party leadership candidate Meryam Haddad announced that she had been expelled from the contest. By Thursday morning, facing widespread backlash from party members, the party’s appeal body overturned the expulsion and reinstated Haddad.
Haddad, a 32-year-old immigration lawyer from Montreal, has run an insurgent campaign for the leadership. Her goal is to harness the power of a movement of young and diverse supporters behind demands that the party support leftist policy proposals, including a Green New Deal, defunding the police, electoral cooperation with the NDP and a “land back” policy. Describing herself as an ecosocialist, she dubbed her movement the Watermelon Revolution — green on the outside, red on the inside.
This is the story of a tumultuous 48 hours for Canada’s Green Party, an investigation into why Haddad was expelled and what happened behind closed doors. Some questions remain unanswered. Notably, the Green Party will not identify the members of the body that chose to expel Haddad, nor will they release that body’s report justifying the expulsion despite being provided with a legal opinion that they are required to do so.
- ‘They’re going to lose the youth vote’: Greens expel ecosocialist candidate on eve of leadership contest
“Dear Ms. Haddad,” begins the email, “we are writing to inform you that you have been expelled as a Contestant for the Leadership of the Green Party of Canada.”
Haddad says it was the first communication she received on the matter. It landed in her inbox while she was participating in a virtual all-candidates meeting on Tuesday, after mail-in ballots had been sent out and three days before electronic voting was set to begin.
I know the GPC has not been very transparent and people want to know what happened with my appeal. I want to be fully transparent for the GPC members and voters. This is all the information I have received in the past two days. pic.twitter.com/MRB2vq5D8S— Meryam Haddad???? (@MeryamHd2020) September 24, 2020
“This is how the party operates,” she told Ricochet in her first media interview about the affair. “It’s always about weaponizing bureaucracy.”
The email came from a party account and was signed by the Leadership Contest Authority, a body that assesses candidate compliance with the rules.
“The LCA has recently been made aware of Twitter posts in which you publicly criticize elected members of the Green Party of British Columbia and endorse a rival candidate,” says the email. “We find that you have discredited and intentionally damaged the interests of the Green Party of Canada.”
Haddad’s offence appears to be tweeting a graphic produced by the B.C. Ecosocialist Party that criticizes the B.C. NDP and Greens for failing to oppose pipelines.
Roughly half an hour later, she followed up with another tweet about the provincial Greens and their leader, Sonia Furstenau. “People upset with this should know that it is not about the parties or the politicians, it is about the policies. That is the meaning of Bernie's #NotMeUs. If BC Greens and Sonia Furstenau want my support, they will need to move further left.”
People upset with this should know that it is not about the parties or the politicians, it is about the policies. That is the meaning of Bernie's #NotMeUs— Meryam Haddad???? (@MeryamHd2020) September 21, 2020
If @BCGreens and @SoniaFurstenau want my support, they will need to move further left.
“That is not an endorsement” of the B.C. Ecosocialists, Haddad told Ricochet. “And I did not criticize anyone. I said if they (the B.C. Greens) want my endorsement they should have a Green New Deal, ‘land back’ policies and defunding the police in their platform.”
What complicates the story are comments made by Stuart Parker, then leader of the B.C. Ecosocialists, that came to light on Tuesday afternoon.
The B.C. scandal
A provincial election has just been called in B.C., where a minority NDP government has been supported by the Greens for the past three and a half years. The newly established B.C. Ecosocialist Party seeks to challenge the ruling NDP and Greens from the left.
Parker, the interim leader of the new party, resigned earlier this week over comments defending supporters of author J.K. Rowling that were seen as hostile to trans rights.
When Parker’s comments were exposed, Haddad publicly called for his resignation. She was one of the first politicians to respond to the controversy. Half an hour later, she was expelled from the Green leadership race.
I have been made aware of transphobic comments from @stuartlosaltos, director of @BCEcosocialists. I have been in contact with both parties.— Meryam Haddad???? (@MeryamHd2020) September 22, 2020
I demanded Stuart apologize and resign. He refused. If BC Ecosocialists does not expell him, I will disavow them as well.
According to Jo-Ann Roberts, the interim leader of the Green Party, anyone who was involved with the Green Party in B.C. was already aware of issues with Parker. “Candidate Haddad had made statements from a party whose leader did not represent Green Party values,” she said, “and we do hold our leadership contestants to a high standard on that. When new information came to her, she corrected her mistake. That information came after the initial hearing, so we had new information in the appeal.”
“There does seem to be some confusion that it was her support of the ecosocialist party that was the concern. That wasn’t it. It was about what the leader of the ecosocialist party stood for.”
“That’s not true,” Haddad responded sharply when Roberts’ quote was read to her. “That’s not true at all. What you see (in the expulsion email) is nothing is mentioned about the ecosocialist leader.”
If the LCA had prior knowledge of issues with Parker, they didn’t mention it in the expulsion letter. The email from the LCA to Haddad states,
While separate parties, the GPC and BC Greens share the same values and a common brand. The GPC directly benefits from having electoral success at the provincial level as demonstrated by the election of two MPs in ridings that overlap with elected provincial greens. Your actions may be resented by GPC supporters who may choose to no longer support the GPC as a result of your explicit call to direct votes away from the BC Greens. Your actions may also jeopardize the ability of the GPC to effectively work with provincial parties on common initiatives.
When asked if there was any rule prohibiting leadership candidates from supporting another party at the provincial level, Roberts said no. “We have a policy that says you cannot be a member of any other federal party while you are a member of the Green Party of Canada, but it does not apply to provincial parties.”
“Because participatory democracy is one of our pillars,” Roberts said in regard to leadership candidates supporting other parties at the provincial level, “this is something Green Party members can assess on their own, and we’re in the middle of a race where they will assess it with their vote.”
She told Ricochet the outcome of this case is an example of the system working as intended, and would not commit the party to not expelling leadership candidates while voting is underway, something she feels would tie the party’s hands.
As for whether leadership candidates are free to support the B.C. Ecosocialist Party now that its interim leader has resigned, Roberts said it would depend on whether the candidates’ actions brought the party into disrepute — a question that would be assessed by the federal council.
The shadowy LCA
Haddad said she was not given an opportunity to present a defence before being expelled from the leadership race. Roberts couldn’t answer whether Haddad had been given that opportunity, because she isn’t a member of the LCA and had no involvement in the process. And Ricochet can’t ask anyone involved, because the party won’t disclose the identities of the LCA members or make any of them available for an interview.
Although Roberts eventually provided the names of the members of the Leadership Campaign Committee, the appeal body she chairs that overturned the expulsion — the party’s vice president - French, Joey Leckman; the deputy leader, Daniel Green; B.C. representative Bob MacKie; and PEI representative Lobie Daughton — she would not do the same for the LCA.
“We are not protected, like judges and lawyers, by the law from those who choose to intimidate and lobby,” she offered by way of explanation while admitting she does not know of any rule that prohibits the disclosure of LCA members’ identities.
According to Roberts, anyone who appears before the authority knows who sits on it. In Haddad’s case though, she never had a hearing and says she has no idea who the LCA members are.
When asked if at least one member of the body could answer questions on the record about elements of the process that Roberts had said she couldn't speak to, she said she would have to first confirm they were okay with that. She said she would follow up on the matter over the next few hours.
This morning, Green Party press secretary Rosie Emory sent an email response: “The members of the LCA will not be speaking to the media at this time so as to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the complaints and appeals processes.”
The LCA’s report could shed light on whether Haddad’s expulsion was about a failure to support the B.C. Green Party, as the email to Haddad stated, or concerns over the leader of the B.C. Ecosocialist Party, as Roberts told me. But the Green Party won’t release it.
Ricochet consulted Michael Simkin, a lawyer and member of the bar in Quebec and B.C. He said the rules that govern the party’s leadership contest are clear, and the party is obligated to release the report. He described their rationale for refusing to release the report as “inaccurate,” “disingenuous” and “contrary to basic legal principles.”
Ricochet provided the party with this legal opinion prior to publication. They declined, once again, to release the report.
‘A threat to the status quo’
“The list is very long. I have a 12-page timeline of everything that has happened and the attacks I’ve had to deal with, including harassment, since August.”
Haddad is describing what she has publicly denounced as a pattern of attacks on her by the party establishment.
In one email from the Green Party to Haddad addressing her expulsion, references are made to individual complaints against her. She described this as “a personal conflict” that led to two complaints from one person associated with her campaign. According to Haddad, the conflict was resolved and the complaints were withdrawn. She blames members of the party executive for advancing complaints that should not have been advanced while ignoring more serious complaints against others. She did not elaborate on what those complaints against others might be.
Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May has publicly denounced efforts to sign up large numbers of new members as an effort to hijack the party. When asked if May had been part of this pattern of harassment, Haddad replied, “Yes. I’m not sure it would be a good idea to go there. But the reality is, yes.”
“I don’t understand why the establishment of the party kept acting this way towards my campaign, but I think it’s about the establishment wanting to continue with the status quo. They know I don’t want that. I’m a threat to the status quo.
There’s no other reason why they would continue making it hard for my campaign to succeed, putting sticks in my wheels, and [trying to] put an end to this movement we’re trying to build.”
She mentioned constant roadblocks that occupy hours of her time and cause her significant stress. “It’s emotional and mental harassment.”
In one case she lobbied to allow youth members with low incomes the opportunity to join the party for free. She says the party’s federal council approved the plan but would only grant membership to these youth after the leadership race was over, a move she sees as intended to diminish the role of young members in choosing the party’s next leader.
“The party acted in a very hostile way after I published the form (to sign up youth members), even though I got the okay. They sent emails to everyone who signed up through this form (to tell them their memberships would not be active until after the leadership campaign) and threw me under the bus basically, even though I didn’t do anything, and I just wanted to encourage youth participation.”
“There’s hostility towards new members and youth. I am the representation of youth in politics at the moment, I am the candidate who represents that.”
The big divide
While reporting on this story, several contacts in the Green Party directed Ricochet to the same YouTube clip. For many of the party’s internal critics, it is emblematic of a divide in the party.
It’s a recording of a virtual meeting that took place earlier this month where Elizabeth May is discussing the leadership race.
“Don’t take it for granted that everyone you know who is a Green Party member is going to remember to vote,” she says at the meeting. “Voter turnout in every election really matters, we all know that. Voter turnout in this leadership race matters enormously.”
“I will speak out loud a fear I have that some of the big jump-in members are people who aren’t committed to the party but may like one particular candidate and will leave the party if their person doesn’t win. Please remember that our long-time, long-term Greens have to vote or we could be hijacked. So I will speak my fear out loud. And that’s a non-partisan statement.”
“Please do everything you can at the grassroots level to get a high voter turnout,” concludes May, “particularly from people who’ve been members of the party for more than the last couple weeks.”
For many of the party’s younger and newer members, this comes across as a direct attack on their right to participate in the democratic process. It follows on the heels of an incident earlier in the race where May publicly attacked a grassroots group called Justice Greens that is working to sign up young members and encouraging them to vote for one of the party’s more left-wing leadership contenders. She called the group “anti-democratic” in a since-deleted tweet.
“Since Elizabeth May called us anti-democratic, we’ve gotten a lot of bad faith questioning from core members of the Green Party establishment,” said Connor Kelly, a member of the Justice Greens in Waterloo, Ontario.
“We’ve heard concerns expressed about people trying to hijack the party … lots of people jumping to the idea that what we’re doing is anti-democratic or underhanded in some way.”
For Kelly, the goal is to remake the Green Party as the party of youth. He says youth feel excluded from traditional parties and are looking for a party to represent left-wing positions that have majority support among young people.
But for some members of the party, an influx of young members with new ideas represents a threat.
For Haddad, it’s about much more than a generational divide. “It’s privilege against those without privilege. It’s the same struggles that we have in the outside world.”