Sep 12, 2022 --
As leaders, we want our attention to be focused on issues that matter to Canadians, like bold climate and environmental policy, building a wellbeing economy, respect for human rights, and building a stronger democracy.
Sadly, conflicts in our party's internal governance are once again spilling out into the media, and as leaders in the Green community, we have a responsibility to address it.
A few days ago, we signed onto a simple statement of solidarity with our Interim Leader, Dr Amita Kuttner. The statement expressed confidence that our party’s Federal Council would request external support to handle a sensitive internal issue. We expected that statement would be the end of our involvement in the matter, that Council would take it further, and that we would get on with the important work of presenting to members our vision for the party, and for Canada, as part of the leadership race.
As Greens, we believe in the principles of restorative justice. We also know that a key element in the process of restorative justice is the need to hold an individual who has caused harm accountable to those they have harmed. Without this, there is no path to repair the trust and safety required to maintain a community, let alone a political party.
In that spirit, we would like to begin by acknowledging those who were hurt by the statement we signed on to. Our intention was not to offend or harm our now-former President Lorraine Rekmans or any of the members of our Leadership Contest Committee, but it is clear that offence was felt, and for this impact, we are sorry.
Here is the solidarity statement we co-signed and released on September 6:
We signed on to this joint statement of solidarity because Dr Kuttner expressed to us that they felt that a recent incident was part of a larger pattern of disrespect they had faced over a number of months, and we believe them. We have been aware of such dynamics within the party for some time, affecting not only Dr Kuttner, but also other former leaders, Councillors, volunteers, and members.
We signed on to the joint statement because we watched someone we consider a friend, and a devoted Green member, break into tears while taking responsibility for an incident we felt she had no part in causing.
We signed on to the statement after pleading with members who were calling for Lorraine to resign over this incident to stand down, as we knew that Lorraine was not responsible for this incident.
We signed on because restorative justice requires that the person responsible for harm be held to account. Yet what we were witnessing was two strong, female leaders of our Party being scapegoated for actions that were not their own, and we felt this was wrong.
In signing on to our statement, we were standing not only with Dr Kuttner, but also expressing our support and faith in the Green Party Federal Council, and their ability to look into the issues and apply the principles of restorative justice we hold dear. Through this action, we sought to open an opportunity for candidates, Council, and our Interim Leader alike to present a united front and address a long-standing issue.
We commend our Federal Council on their recent decision to move forward in addressing this matter, and we are also glad that the leadership race continues. We hope that their process can establish accountability, and begin the process of healing. For restorative justice to work, it is crucial that those who say they have been harmed are believed, rather than brushed aside.
In a mature organization, when claims of harassment are made, impartial and calm investigations occur. Investigations are supported by experienced, professional teams, to determine accountability and ensure that harassment stops. If handled well, such a process does not distract energy from the core work of the organization – in the case of our party, driving positive political change.
In a professional process, those who feel harmed have a chance to be heard, privately, in an impartial and confidential space, distant from their alleged harassers. Evidence can be gathered to reveal the truth, outside of the often-harmful ‘court of public opinion'.
We believe that such a process is in line with our core Green values of nonviolence, sustainability, social justice, and respect for diversity.
As Greens, it is our responsibility to apply the principles and values that are the foundation of our ethos. Our members demand it, our country demands it, and our planet demands it.
Accountability does not always require punishment, but it does require acknowledgment.
That is why we stood in solidarity with Green Party Interim Leader Dr. Amita Kuttner.
Since the sudden resignation of our former President this weekend, we have offered and made ourselves available to both current and former Councillors, for conversation. Internal communication at a time like this is key, and we are extremely open to it.
We want to be able to focus our energy on the external issues that matter to Canadians. To be able to do that, and end the cycle of endless controversy, our party needs to get its own house in order. We thank all the Federal Councillors who have been, and who remain, so committed to doing that essential work.
Should either of us be elected as Leader, we are ready to step up and work with Council, to build a culture of professional accountability and of care, and to reform our Constitution and stabilize our party’s governance, so we can get on with the vitally-important external work of restoring our democracy and building a new, sustainable era for Canada.
-- Anna Keenan & Chad Walcott