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The Green Party of Canada says it stands behind its leadership race vetting process after one contender responded to accusations he was promoting a racist policy by arguing his opponent was just angry he had come up with the idea as a white person.
Meryam Haddad told National Observer that if the Green Party truly respects its members, it must discipline Dylan Perceval-Maxwell for a policy he proposed during Tuesday’s leadership debate that she had called out as racist and offensive, as well as for his reaction afterward that she believes made things worse.
“I think the Green Party of Canada must take action against what he said, to be honest. I do not understand how he passed the vetting,” Haddad said in an interview.
"It's the party's job to make sure that such comments are not made, and if they want to respect members who are people of colour, and Black people, Indigenous people, they have to react to such comments.”
During the debate, hosted by the TVO network, candidates were asked to weigh in on the call to “defund the police.” When it was Perceval-Maxwell’s turn, he proposed that police should “give $20 to every person of colour they stop” as a way of discouraging racial profiling.
A few minutes later, when given the opportunity to offer some last words, Haddad, a refugee lawyer, called Perceval-Maxwell's proposal “super racist” and said that “as a person of colour, I find it very, very offensive.”
Asked Wednesday to respond, Perceval-Maxwell, an environmental activist, said he was “truly sorry that she feels this way” and that he would be open to directing the $20 to “some other good cause” or to ensuring it comes out of the officer’s salary.
But he added he didn’t think Haddad “even listened to the important part of my proposal,” which he felt was about giving police an “incentive not to pull over people of colour.”
“She was too angry that a white person came up with an idea, which I think she thought was belittling the situation,” he said. “The racial discrimination experienced by people of colour by the police is a very serious issue and deserves action, not just talk.”
Haddad said that comment made the situation “even worse.”
She called Perceval-Maxwell’s $20 concept “wacky,” in addition to being offensive. “Now today, he added that I'm in some way jealous that a white person found the solution to racial profiling and systemic racism?” she wondered.
The @CanadianGreens says it stands behind its leadership race vetting process after @dylanmaxwell7 responded to accusations he was promoting a racist policy by arguing @MeryamHd2020 was "too angry that a white person came up with an idea."
“It's not positive at all that we have a candidate making such remarks on TVO, or to any media, or in general. They (the Green Party) have to react to it."
Party says it can't respond due to 'insufficient detail'
Green Party press secretary Rosie Emery said the party expects contestants to address issues that arise in debate during leadership contests, as Haddad had done already.
“This is the first time we've heard of Mr. Perceval-Maxwell's proposal, and there is insufficient detail to respond to it in earnest,” said Emery.
“At this point, we have not received any official complaint, and the preconditions necessary for initiating any disciplinary action against Mr. Perceval-Maxwell have not been met.”
Emery also said the party stands behind its vetting process. “There is nothing we found about the contestants that was not already a part of their public record,” she said.
“We are committed to participatory democracy. We trust our members to make the best decision on our future leader.”
The Green Party has made its position clear on the issue of systemic racism in the RCMP, she added. Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May has called the RCMP "a racist institution" and anti-Indigenous, and the party says it has called multiple times for public inquiries into the Mounties.
“The party is committed to being actively anti-discriminatory, and we are taking exceptional measures to ensure equity and celebrate the diversity of our leadership contestants,” said Emery.
'All police must be disarmed and dismantled'
Perceval-Maxwell insisted his solution would succeed. “I challenge anyone to come up with an argument of why it would not work,” he said. “We need to think about every idea without prejudging ... this idea would be quick to implement and would not cost much, as the money could go back to taxpayers.”
Haddad said it was better to conceive of defunding the police as part of a Green New Deal, which she sees as including not only climate action, but also racial equality, decolonization, workers rights and other elements of social justice. The RCMP are “at the opposite of what our communities need,” she said.
"The RCMP and all police must be disarmed and dismantled. This is in the long run, of course. I'm not saying we can shut down all policing institutions tomorrow. But it's the long game, that we are committed to societal restructuring,” said Haddad.
“Affordable housing, education, universal pharmacare, mental health services — if we address these root issues, the crime rate and criminalization just goes significantly down. It's all about reimagining community safety in a way that’s not punitive and really focused on rehabilitation instead.”
Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer