OTTAWA — You did not necessarily want the job. Still, they searched. And now Amita Kuttner is interim leader of Canada’s troubled and divided Green Party.
An astrophysicist from British Columbia, Kuttner is the first leader of a mainstream federal party to be trans. They are also the first leader of Asian descent in federal politics.
Just two weeks ago, Kuttner told Star that the role of interim manager is “a terrible job.” But on Wednesday night, they were selected from a pool of candidates to take over a federal party broken by months of unrest and accusations of racism and mismanagement that led to Annamie Paul, Toronto’s lawyer leading the party, resigning. for almost a year.
The Star spoke to Kuttner on the phone on Thursday about their historic appointment – and how they think the Greens can recover.
The star: You have before expressed concerns on transphobia and other forms of discrimination within the party. You told me the other day that you were not sure you would ever want this job. Now that you’re a temporary manager, how are you?
Kuttner: It’s been a little personally overwhelming because I think I broke a number of ceilings. I’m actually not always comfortable focusing on my identity, but it happened. There are many emotions.
As for my story with the party… it’s real – the transphobia is real, the racism is real, the discrimination is quite clear. But it’s not the majority of the party… So my experience with the hatred I received – I did not get the feeling that people were out to hurt me, but rather came from a place with severe lack of knowledge and understanding. … I think what we can and what we should achieve together is far more important than any of these disagreements.
As you say, you break ceilings. What does it mean to you?
It’s an honor that I hope I’m ready to carry … Representation is incredibly important. It also opens you up to a lot of discussion (about) your identity. Someone already asked me on the radio, “Well, what were you born as?”
I hope we can actually focus on my lived experience and what having this perspective means to change the political conversation.
There are differing views on what happened over the past year in which they blamed Paul for her leadership style or said there was racism in the party. What lessons do you take with you into this new role from this difficult period for the party?
As happens many times in interpersonal conflict, everyone’s view of it is true to themselves. Their own perception of it is genuine. Truth lies somewhere in the fog between perceptions of reality. And I do not know whether we should find it, or should it, or whether it is necessary to create a sense of reason and justice and security again.
My understanding of the struggle of the past year, it almost comes down to this vision of power centralized in the leader versus the vision of power spread across the grassroots … What is your sense of how power should be in the Green Party?
What I think is important is that everyone agrees on what that system is and it is clearly defined, which has not been the case. And I think that is the crux of many of the disagreements.
I would rather work in a group. But to have a group you can work with, you have to have the basic trust, and that has not been the case.
What are your priorities going forward to get the party back on track?
To get the management competition well run, get rid of the hiccups we faced last time, and also make it as fair as possible. … Other than that, fundraising is very instantaneous. And the association and the healing process are there.
Personally, I would also really like to support the caucus. The party for me, who we are, is actually what we get made in the house. That is what we carry and are able to promise people when we offer them a green MP.
What do you think the party needs in its next banner that succeeds you as the elected leader?
I think someone who is an excellent communicator, both internally and externally, will be crucial.
What makes the Green Party unique in the end is not the fact that we have climate policies, it’s because we have a different approach to governance and politics … We need to focus on climate policy, but it needs to be so clear, that in every policy we talk about, we are solving the climate crisis.
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