Green Party president quits, tells members 'the dream is dead'
Lorraine Rekmans calls for a halt to current leadership race amid infighting and divisive politics
In a blunt and blistering resignation letter, Green Party President Lorraine Rekmans announced she has quit in frustration and says the party's dream "is dead."
Laying it out over three pages, Rekmans called her tenure as party president "turbulent."
Rekmans took the job a year ago; the Greens were in meltdown after an attempt to dump former leader Annamie Paul before a federal election.
Rekmans, the party's first Indigenous president, believed she could help the Greens "rise from the ashes" and transform into a vibrant, inclusive party, while meeting the challenge of protecting the planet.
Those hopes weren't realized, she said.
"Now I see that, for me, the dream is dead," she states. "I am exhausted and my optimism has died ... To me, this signals an end to the (Green Party of Canada.)"
In an interview with CBC News on Sunday, she called on members to take back the party, comparing the current situation to 2021 when it was beset by infighting and divisive politics.
Rekmans shared a copy of her resignation letter. Her reasons for resigning are wide-ranging, but she focused on the contestants in the leadership race that is currently underway and problems with her colleagues on the party's governing body, known as the federal council.
"I have resigned for principle. I had no confidence in the leadership contestants, and they had no confidence in me, and I lost confidence in (the) federal council," Rekmans said.
Interim leader misgendered
Some of her concerns stem from the race's launch about a week ago. During the virtual event, organizers labelled interim leader Amita Kuttner with incorrect pronouns on screen. Kuttner uses the pronouns they/he/ille.
According to an earlier statement from Kuttner, Rekmans didn't misgender them but the then-president apologized as a party representative. Kuttner said the incident exposed a more significant problem within the party.
"In truth, this incident is reflective of a larger pattern of behaviours that a few in the party are perpetuating. Over the years, the party has documented reports which indicate a systemic issue disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, and racialized people and 2SLGBTQIA+ people," Kuttner said.
Four candidates in the leadership race issued a joint statement acknowledging Rekmans was not to blame and called for the party's leadership to address "similar behaviour patterns that Dr. Kuttner has faced through their tenure."
Sarah Gabrielle Baron, a candidate for party leader, called Rekmans "uninformed" during a news conference.
In her resignation letter, Rekmans accused the candidates of politicizing the incident and insulting her to the point she could not see herself working with any of them as the leader.
"Really, what can you do when our own leadership hopefuls lob allegations at you?" Rekmans said.
While most candidates didn't blame her personally for misgendering Kuttner, Rekmans said the implication was there.
"I felt maligned," Rekmans told CBC News. "It was a huge insult to me. It is an insult to my leadership, an insult to my contribution."
Clocking 40 hours a week of unpaid work for the party, Rekmans said she has proposed the party undertake an assessment to correct its culture.
At a meeting Friday night, according to Rekmans' letter, the federal council voted to investigate allegations of abuse and discrimination. However, most councillors also voted to proceed with the leadership race simultaneously, which Rekmans opposed.
The outgoing president said she didn't believe staff and volunteers should be working on a race amid allegations of workplace harm and discrimination.
"I don't see how those two things can coexist, that we could be under investigation for harm, and that we could continue to use our volunteers to run a contest," Rekmans said.
"If council had voted to suspend the contest, I would not have resigned, because that would have sent a signal to me that these people are serious about safety."
WATCH | Extended interview with outgoing Green Party president:
Kuttner says party's problems aren't new
Kuttner, the party's interim leader, has been drawn into the latest development. Kuttner told CBC they were grateful for Rekmans' service, but the leadership race should continue.
"These problems are not new," Kuttner said. "We have known they had to be dealt with."
"It's the sort of thing that we need to be able to be capable of doing concurrently."