Fatima Syed: For those looking for a different kind of politics to emerge from these difficult times of pandemic, Paul was the unexpected hero we didn’t know we had.
During the first and only English debate of the 2021 election campaign, Annamie Paul, the leader of the Green Party was the only woman on stage, the first black person on stage, the first Jewish person on stage and, perhaps Most importantly, the only calm, collected and straightforward sniper on the national stage.
His command of the room was evident from the start. His first reply was short and to the point. She was the only federal leader to grant land recognition.
As the other male leaders fought, talked about each other, lost patience, used frantic hand gestures, frustrated facial expressions, and rushed to make their points, Paul looked directly into the camera every time it was her turn to respond. His eyes were laser-focused, his lips pursed, his body motionless.
It was about a woman who knew she had nothing to gain and who had only one goal: to change the political discourse. In an election campaign that has been largely uninspiring since its inception, she gave us some inspiration.
There were many significant moments that Paul relayed to the country last night, from his rejection of Justin Trudeau’s handling of Afghanistan to his rejection of Yves-François Blanchet’s stance on systemic racism, but the most powerful was the recognition that he had to “crawl lots of broken glass to get here. “
Canadian politics is not blessed with many women on the national stage. It is a sad state that is emblematic of a broader issue of diversity throughout Canada’s parliamentary system. Paul said it herself during the debate: “I am the only woman, besides Elizabeth May, who has been on this platform in the last 18 years.”
But Paul took a minute to give us an idea of what politics might look like if women were on the national stage: “I think if there were more women on this platform tonight and in previous years, we would actually have better laws on the national stage. Army, that we would already have childcare, that we would have many of the things we need, ”he said.
Then he did the unexpected. He gave credit to women who could have changed the face of national politics, women who are not even part of his party.
“Mr. Trudeau, you cannot pretend to be a feminist and constantly take strong women out of your group. Tonight I will say their names in front of the people of Canada, Jane Philpott, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Celina Caesar-Chavannes,” she said. ” I’m here tonight because of the work you’ve done. “
I have no other way of saying this: damn it, Annamie Paul.
This choice has not been exactly good for women. All the political parties spoke out about childcare when the elections began, but it has since walked away from the discussion. Canadians were promised a historic opportunity to build a system that builds a foundation for children and supports the economy. Instead, women’s issues have largely been resigned to Trudeau’s inability to report allegations of sexual harassment (or “contact” in one case) against some candidates.
I would have loved for this election to be a national conversation about violence against women, about their safety and security. A report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability at the University of Guelph showed that 160 women and girls were murdered last year in Canada; that’s an average of one woman or girl every 2.5 days.
But we all have to maintain realistic expectations when the main hopefuls for prime minister are men and the only woman in the career who, for months, had been discarded due to the internal chaos of her own party.
For those of us seeking a different kind of politics to emerge from these difficult pandemic times, Paul was the unexpected hero we didn’t know we had.
Over the course of the debate, each time he spoke he demanded collaboration, justice and equitable representation. It was not easy for her. Trudeau said he would not take “caucus management lessons” from her. (To which she responded with a smile on her face saying that she would not take lessons from him).
As the men discussed Afghanistan, she showed the men the big picture: “When people count on you, when you make a promise to them, you do it so people can count on Canada’s word. When someone is your partner, you go with them or for them or you don’t go up much ”.
When the men tried to improve each other’s climate proposals, she rebuffed them, reminding them that “this kind of approach to climate will get us nowhere” and asked them to collaborate as they did in the early days of the pandemic.
Perhaps the most iconic moment was when he invited Blanchet to inquire about systemic racism. When he interrupted her, she extended her right hand and without looking at him said “this is my moment, sir.” It was a moment similar to the one that now US Vice President Kamala Harris told her opponent Mike Pence in the 2020 debate that “I’m talking.”
Blanchet responded to Paul’s polite response: “This is a good time to insult people.”
Paul replied, “That was not an insult. It was an invitation to educate oneself ”.
Between these memorable moments, Paul showed up effortlessly. She told Canada that she was a lawyer. She is the granddaughter of a woman who worked past her retirement age. She is the daughter of Caribbean parents who struggled to put food on the table. She is the sister of a former Alberta bully. She is married to a man who worked in international human rights.
Paul won’t become prime minister on September 20 and his platform leaves a lot to question, but I know six women across the country who texted me seven words after the debate: “I want to vote for Annamie Paul.”