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2020: New Milestones for Black Women in Politics – Update Features 

2020: New Milestones for Black Women in Politics – Update

In the last article, we covered the new political first achieved by Black women in politics. Dominique Anglade became the first woman of colour to lead a political party in Quebec. Leslyn Lewis became the first woman of colour to run in the Conservative Party. Kamala Harris became the first African-American and Asian-American vice-presidential nominee of a major U.S. presidential party.

Not long after the article was published, another glass ceiling was shattered in the Green Party’s leadership election. On October 03, 2020, Toronto lawyer and activist Annamie Paul became the first Black Canadian and Jewish woman to lead a major federal party in Canada.

Annamie Paul was born in Toronto in 1972 to Caribbean immigrants and raised in the nearby neighbourhood of Bramalea in Brampton, Ontario. Paul was involved in politics from a young age by working as a page for the Ontario legislature and the Canadian Senate. She also interned for then Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino in 1996. Paul holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ottawa and a Masters of Public Affairs from Princeton University. 

As a lawyer, Paul started the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership (CCPL), an organization focused on helping women, indigenous individuals and people of colour run for public office. The quadrilingual lawyer also worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and as a political officer in Canada’s Mission to the European Union in Brussel. In the 2019 Canadian federal election, Annamie Paul ran as the Green candidate for the constituency of Toronto Centre, held by former Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Elizabeth May resigned as the leader of the Green Party shortly after the last federal election. May held the realm of the party for over 13 years. Under her leadership, the party grew from a fringe movement to a mainstream political party that currently holds three elected seats in the House of Commons. Whoever is going to replace her is going to have to fill in some big shoes. This did not stop Annamie Paul and seven other candidates to run to have a shot at the head of their political party. 

Throughout her campaign, Paul has raised the most amount of money out of all the candidates. Since there were no polls made for the Green leadership, Paul was seen as the race’s frontrunner. However, the road to victory was not going to be a smooth ride for her. Paul, a Jewish woman of colour, has the target of many racist and antisemitic remarks. At one virtual townhall, racial slurs and other antisemitic comments were written and directed at the candidate.

Nonetheless, Annamie Paul won the leadership election thanks to her claiming 50% of votes on the last ballot in the ranked-ballot system the Party used. In doing so, Paul became the first Black Canadian to lead a major federal political party in Canada permanently. She is the second Jewish person to become a national party leader after David Lewis of the NDP. Paul declared that the Green Party is the “party of this moment” in her victory speech:

“You have matched a leader to the challenges of this time. We need to match the party to the needs of this moment. That party is the Green Party of Canada. We are the party for this moment.”

She also emphasized her message on fighting against climate change, which she called “an existential threat to human life;” for better representation of BIPOC in Canadian politics; and for a broader appeal to Francophone voters, especially in Quebec.

What’s next? On October 26th, a by-election will be held in the riding of Toronto Centre following the resignation of Bill Morneau as both finance minister and MP. Before her victory, Annamie Paul had received approval from her party to run in her home constituency. After Paul’s historical victory, all eyes will be focused on whether the newly-elected Green leader could win in the solid Liberal electoral district.


By Jacques Wang

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