As the House finishes up its final weeks before campaign season kicks off, the Green Party is crossing every extremity in the hope that they are, indeed, starting to ride a wave. This is especially true as the Conservatives and Liberals drag each other in the media for attention—and eventual votes—and the NDP continues to ghost Canadians like a bad date; the Greens have risen up from the ashes to snatch victory from the status quo—or at least try to reach official party status. They’re basically Ben Affleck’s horrible phoenix back tattoo.
But the question remains: are they ready? Not Elizabeth May; to be clear, she’s proven herself to be a strong and capable representative in the House, given that she has been the lone Green Party Member of Parliament for much of the last eight years. Her patience and resilience has paid off though, as the Green Party of Canada gained a second seat in the House following the election of Paul Manly in the recent Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C., byelection, and having an extremely strong showing in the P.E.I. provincial election while also holding the balance of power in the B.C. legislature.
When we think about the Greens, we think of a progressive party with fresh ideas—the upstarts. But, how progressive can you be if your party is hesitant or unable to deviate from the ingrained power structures that uphold whiteness and maleness? If you consider yourself radical and fighting against the man (literally and figuratively), how can you expect to tear down power if you are supporting the underlying structures? Answer: you can’t.
The power structure in this country rewards white, cis-male actors disproportionately for their effort, while women, Indigenous, people of colour, Muslims, LGBTQ2+ folks, the differently abled, and others fight to be recognized and valued for ours. This is what white supremacy is: systems of power that work to ensure white men are visible, represented, valued, deferred to, and rewarded over and above everyone else in order to keep the fruits of labour concentrated within that demographic. It is more than just Nazis in the streets, it is the fundamental way Canada has operated before, and since, Confederation and we are all actors within this socio-economic construct.
Canadian progressive politics, while allowing people from marginalized communities into the tent, create policies and engage in political strategies that continue to centre whiteness, and men in particular, as the default, with everyone else viewed as a function of that default. So, when your party consists of mostly white men in positions of power and prestige (also known as candidates), one can only assume that this approach will continue to be the default, even if the leader of the party is a white woman.
The Greens’ platform, which has all the bells and whistles of progressive policies—from climate change to implementing the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to proportional representation—nearly erases marginalized communities. Their policies attributed to the reduction of inequality only recognize gender as a basis upon which to oppose discrimination—not race, religion, sexual orientation, or ability. Creating policies for those traversing multiple identities of marginalization is what intersectionality is all about. Instead, for the Green Party, the approach to social justice is focused only on poverty and housing.
But that doesn’t matter, right? Well, a recent Ekos poll, which measured attitudes towards visible minority immigrants by party, asked: of all those who immigrate to Canada, are there too many, the right amount, or not enough visible minorities? While we rightly assume that the Conservative answer to this question is an enthusiastic “yes” (71 per cent think there are too many), the Greens had the next-highest proportion that think there are too many people entering the country who are darker than a No. 2 pencil, at 34 per cent (the national response in the affirmative is 42 per cent because… Conservatives). Guess who experiences poverty and housing issues at a disproportionate rate? People of colour.
So, while these figures may seem innocuous, especially to those who don’t think race is an issue, guess what? It’s an issue. This is a red flag, especially when half of the country will be an immigrant or children of immigrants by 2036, according to Statistics Canada. With tectonic demographic shifts already afoot, how can the Greens truly represent a changing Canada with personnel that mirrors the status quo?