Elizabeth May could quit as Green Party leader this month

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says her party's decision last week to pass a resolution in support of a controversial boycott Israel movement has left her "broken-hearted" and on the verge of stepping down as leader, possibly within weeks.

'Broken-hearted' May says boycott Israel policy has her on verge of stepping down as leader

Is Green Party Leader Elizabeth May about to step down as her party's leader? She's heading off on vacation to decide, following her party's decision to embrace the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which she doesn't support. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Elizabeth May says she could step down as Green Party leader later this month if her party doesn't reconsider its decision to endorse a movement that calls for the boycott of Israel.

At its policy convention last weekend, Green Party members voted in favour of a resolution which, in part, said the party "supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel's economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [occupied Palestinian Territories.]"

"I would say as of this minute I think I'd have real difficulties going not just to an election but through the next month," May said in an interview with CBC Radio's The House, set to air this Saturday morning on CBC Radio One.

"There are a lot of issues I want to be talking about with Canadians, and this isn't one of them."

May is headed to Nova Scotia for a family vacation, where she will seek their advice on her future as leader.

"I need to talk to my family and ask them what they think I should do," May said. "You're talking to a broken-hearted person who is trying to figure out the best way forward."

'Wrong-headed for the party'

After Green Party members endorsed the BDS movement, several prominent Jewish organizations denounced the move, with one leader saying he was "irate" with the party. 

But another Jewish group was enthusiastic about the resolution brought forward by the Green Party's justice critic, Dimitri Lascaris.

"This is the first time a Canadian political party with representation in the House of Commons has taken a strong and positive position in solidarity with the grassroots Palestinian movement for freedom, justice and equality," said Tyler Levitan, a spokesman for Independent Jewish Voices Canada in a release.

A hotly debated House of Commons motion introduced by Conservative MPs to condemn the BDS movement passed 229-51 last February, with some MPs preferring to abstain.

May — who opposes BDS — said she has been criticized as both a Zionist and an anti-Semite since it was adopted as official party policy.

"It's horrible. You are caught between two very strong loud voices," she said.

"I think it is wrong-headed for the party. It's a very polarizing and divisive campaign."

Plans to run again as MP

As she considers her future, May is also seeking ways to get the party to reconsider its support of the BDS movement. 

May told The Canadian Press there could be "a trigger to hold a special meeting of all members" for another look at a resolution she believes does not reflect the party's genuine will.

If May can't trigger a special review of the policy, the only other opportunities to revisit the resolution would be at the party's next meeting in 2018 or at a leadership convention, should she opt to step down later this month.

Whatever her decision, there will be an emergency meeting of the party council to discuss next steps, likely Aug. 21 or 22, she added.

A survey was sent to Green Party members on Wednesday night asking them how they feel about the BDS motion. 

  Regardless of her future as leader, May plans to seek re-election as a Green candidate in the next general election. 

"My constituency is my top priority," she said. "I am going to run again in 2019."

Elizabeth May talks about the controversy that emerged from the Green Party's convention and whether she will stay on as party leader.


David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from The Canadian Press