Elizabeth May stays on, opens door to further discussions on BDS


Elizabeth May will stay on as Green Party leader despite her party’s controversial motion supporting the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement which opposes Israeli policy. May said the party will launch a new process to try to reach consensus. It could present a great opportunity for more education on the cause of Palestinian human rights. Read more…

Green Party leader Elizabeth May ended 10 days of intense speculation about her future yesterday by announcing that she would not resign as leader.

“I see there’s been lots of speculation from the Internet about whether I plan to join some other political party. That was never even a consideration “, May told reporters at a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday.“I love my friends in the other parties but I am Green.”

The speculation about her future arose from the fact that at its Party convention in early August, the GPC had adopted a motion supporting BDS, the international movement to boycott Israel. May’s opposition to BDS seemed to be partly motivated by consideration of the impact it would have on the Green Party’s electoral and financial situation, and partly by her personal conviction that BDS would not be helpful toward achieving a peaceful solution.

Immediately after the vote, a number of Jewish groups, including the Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) “condemned” the Green Party for its “antisemitic” action.

But other Jewish groups applauded the move. “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 Monday’s press conference, May reiterated her strong criticisms of some of Israel’s policies. She said she respected GPC members with opinions on both sides of the issue and again repeated that she does not agree with those who claim BDS is anti-Semitic. But she said she feared the endorsement of BDS by GPC could be misconstrued as anti-Semitic and would lump the party in with a larger group of activists beyond its control. She was “heartbroken” that the motion passed without consensus among members.

In the press conference, May focussed on what she saw as weaknesses in the Green Party’s decisionmaking process. In her view, the party had abandoned its traditional consensus decisionmaking to adopt a more formal process (called Roberts Rules of Order). This led, in her view, to the Party making a decision that, while democratic, was highly divisive.

She said the Party’s federal council has now asked senior party officials “to identify any and all policies adopted that lacked consensus and to prepare proposals to be put to the members at Special Meeting with the goal of achieving consensus.”

New opportunity for education

Quebec Green Party leader Alex Tyrell was one of many GPC activists disappointed by the decision to reverse the decision. “Elizabeth May is wrong. The actions of the state of Israel against the Palestinian people are unacceptable. This is a fact Elizabeth May herself has recognized. The disagreement is with respect to tactics,” he argued, reflecting the feelings of many who had worked hard to see the resolution adopted democratically.

Palestinian human rights activists outside the Green Party were also understandably disappointed that the party had decided to review the decision.

But the Green Party’s new effort to find “consensus” on this issue opens the door to further education on the BDS issue among members. While many party members, and especially many activists, strongly support BDS as a way to pressure Israel to recognize its international obligations to the Palestinians, it seems probable that many more are as yet unaware, unclear or uncomfortable with it.

This new attempt at “consensus building” will give activists an opportunity to explain to the undecideds why they feel the BDS movement is legitimate and necessary.

Its not yet clear what the new “consensus building” process will be, or how long it will take. If the Federal Council wants to close down or sidetrack this discussion quickly, it is hard to see how a consensus could be reached.

However, if the real intent is to develop a broad consensus in the party, then a longer term perspective will have to be adopted. This could open the door to educational sessions, debates, cross Canada tours by invited Palestinian speakers, or even fact-finding tours to visit Israel/Palestine, all with Green Party official approval. It would also give Palestinian human rights supporters the chance to explain the reasons behind the three democratic demands of the BDS movement (ending the occupation, equality inside Israel, and above all, about resolving the desperate situation of the 5 million Palestinian refugees.)

After an initial success, and then an apparent setback, a door is now opening for Palestinian human rights activists to renew their education campaign in the context of the official Green Party consensus building process..


REMINDER: THERE IS STILL TIME TO WIN $1000 IN OUR ESSAY CONTEST!! A $1000 prize is available for the best essay by a Canadian under 30 on whether Canada should support BDS. Get more info by clicking on this link. Contest ends September 30th.

Do you want to support the educational work of Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP)? Why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at membership.ctip@gmail.com.




  1. I hope you’re right about the reversal providing an opening, Peter, but I doubt the party leadership wants to see the kind of thorough, thoughtful discussion you’re proposing which could well lead to a reaffirmation of support for BDS, causing it further embarrassment. It’s much like the NDP leadership’s decision last April to refer the Leap Manifesto back to the ridings for further “discussion” rather than a straight up and down floor vote. “Consensus” is a euphemism for compromise which implies a certain watering down of basic principles typically leading to inaction.

  2. The bottom line is that Palestine is the litmus test for true commitment to justice. It is ground zero for the Zio-cons and their dangerous adventures. And it takes more courage to face down the loud and well-funded opponents of justice and peace on this more than any other issue.

    In trying to sweep BDS under the table, Liz has foolishly betrayed the principled position taken by the membership. Moreover the feeble excuses to single out the BDS resolution for back-tracking holds no water.

    If Jill Stein, her counterpart can openly call for BDS, and in the USA of all places, May cannot excuse kowtowing to the establishment Lobby here. Moreover, the widespread youthful support for Bernie Sanders, daring to call himself a Socialist in the land of the Baals of capitalism, is likely paralleled in Canada among the same demographic yearning for global justice. May is relegating the party to ‘also-ran’ status on a platform of rearranging the political deck chairs.

    1. With respect anonymous, I don’t agree that she has “kowtowed” to the Jewish establishment.

      Nor do I accept the parallel argument (made by others) that she lacks courage. I think she is very courageous and has shown it repeatedly, on many files. (bill C-51 was an example).

      I think we have to recognize that she simply DOES NOT AGREE THAT GPC SUPPORT FOR BDS IS A GOOD IDEA. That is not the same thing as “kowtowing”. I think she has many reasons for that, both as a leader and as an individual.

      As a leader she is worried about what it might do to the GPC financially and electorally (and its her job to protect the party).

      As an individual, I think May accepts the liberal Zionist idea that Jews need and deserve a state for protection. So she is willing to go along with ending the occupation, but not with equality inside Israel, nor, especially, the right of return for the refugees because that would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

      I disagree with her, but I think she is quite courageous in the way she defends her point of view against all comers.

  3. Re, the review process, in reading Elizabeth May’s August 22 email to Green Party members, which I received, she writes:

    “Last night, the council [Green Party’s Federal Council] passed a motion that the Green Party of Canada will hold a Special Meeting in order to review and adopt processes for improved policy making, and to re-open all policies passed at the August 2016 Convention on which the floor was divided, with the goal of a united party. This meeting will take place at earliest in December, and will be followed by a ratification vote (online and by mail) in which all members can participate. We will share the details of this Special Meeting as soon as they become available.”

    Although not explicit, one presumes that a “ratification vote” will be on any proposed revised processes for improved policy making and on any proposed revisions emerging from a re-opening of all policies passed on which the floor was divided.

    If the “Special Meeting” is to take place in December, prospects for “educational sessions, debates, cross Canada tours by invited Palestinian speakers, or even fact-finding tours to visit Israel/Palestine, etc.” would appear to be dim indeed.

  4. Dimitri Lascaris, Green Party member and author of the controversial BDS resolution, was interviewed today (Aug 23) by the Real News Network. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

    “I’m hopeful that at the end of the day she will see the wisdom and support for BDS. I’m going to do all that I can to impress upon her that it is the right thing to do. And she commented today that she doesn’t believe — and I respect her opinion — but she doesn’t believe that we should be endorsing social movements like BDS. This is exactly what our party did when it endorsed the Leap Manifesto. The Leap Manifesto is fundamentally a social movement. It’s an expression of will, of social movement. It isn’t a partisan political document. And if we’re prepared to endorse something as important and socially constructive as Leap manifesto, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t take in my view a strong stand for Palestinian rights and say that Israel should be made to pay appropriate peaceful economic and political penalties for its clear violation of international law.”

    Here’s the link: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=17070

  5. I think it will be a struggle. We know there are people in the GPC who are strongly opposed and would like to torpedo this. Others would like to press on. May has said she wants to build a consensus. That means, in principle, to allow different points of view to be expressed freely. We will see how this unfolds. In the mean time, I think it would be wise to take her at her word and propose a way of moving this issue forward.

  6. Hi Peter,I really enjoy reading your newsletters.I was wondering if you were going to organize a trip to Israel-Palestine this coming November.I gave my name last year.We want to plan our November trip so I`m interested to know if this trip is available in 2016.Paul Bard

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