Green party leader Elizabeth May. (photo from Elizabeth May’s office)
“Let’s face it, Israel is a miracle in the world – in innovation, and science and technology, solar energy!” Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May told the Independent in an interview last week.
While the Green party passed a motion last year against the expansion of settlements in Israel, which they claim are illegal and pose an obstacle to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, May noted that there is a Green Party of Israel, and shared some of its accomplishments. She said her party supports Israel and the collaboration of Canada with Israel, particularly on science, technology and climate change.
She added, “I think that it really needs to be stressed that world peace depends on Canada playing a role where we command respect from a lot of different communities and support for the state of Israel has never marginalized Canada in the world, never. But, aligning ourselves with only one of the political threads of the Israeli body politic, basically being a pro-Likud country, reduces our influence in the world, for sure. And our influence in the world is needed for many things, including striving for peace in the Middle East – real, durable, sustainable peace, so we don’t have Israeli children or Palestinian children fearing for their lives.
“The Green party has always condemned Hamas, we condemn Hezbollah, we also want the response [to their actions] to be proportional, so it’s a very difficult issue and I don’t think it helps in our democracy when we can’t discuss it. I’ll clearly say that we draw a very strong line [between] any campaigns that criticize Israel, I think that’s legitimate, [and] any campaign that criticizes Israel but has at its base an even hidden agenda of antisemitism. I think we can spot that pretty quickly, and we’ve always condemned those.”
While prime ministers Stephen Harper and Binyamin Netanyahu opposed the Iran nuclear deal, May said, “We think it’s a good thing. We think that you can’t risk having Iran have nuclear weapons. You can’t take a chance on missing the opportunity for diplomacy to give you inspections – they are real. They’re not even going to implement the lifting of sanctions till Iran shows good faith and allows for inspections…. I think it’s important to say trust but verify.
“We also recognize that, if we’re going to solve the crisis in Syria, we have got to start making more alliances in the region and Iran could play a significant role. I think, obviously, that was on [U.S. President] Barack Obama’s mind in pursuing an agreement with Iran … we do not have enough natural enemies of ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and extremism. Leaving Libya as a failed state was a mistake in the region, so we’re very concerned with the big picture, and maybe you have to take some water in your wine sometimes.”
If there were a Green government, May said she would consider deploying Canada’s military in action on foreign soil with a United Nations sanction, “which makes it legal under international law. We’re global, we have Greens in 80 countries around the world. We believe that you act within international law, with a UN approval. That’s one of the tragedies with the Libyan engagement, of course, was that we used the responsibility to protect with a UN sanction then, midway through, changed the mission to regime change, and we really contaminated the usefulness of responsibility to protect for future missions.
“… I could see Canada participating now in a mission that involved troops on the ground if it was to fortify the border between Syria and Turkey to stop the flow of black marketability. ISIS is funding itself in the millions through black-market operations, both its sale of black-market oil and its sale … of antiquities from the archeological and culturally significant sites they are looting. We should be using all of the tools at our disposal to stem the flow of money to ISIS….”
“But, for instance, I could see Canada participating now in a mission that involved troops on the ground if it was to fortify the border between Syria and Turkey to stop the flow of black marketability. ISIS is funding itself in the millions through black-market operations, both its sale of black-market oil and its sale … of antiquities from the archeological and culturally significant sites they are looting.
“We should be using all of the tools at our disposal to stem the flow of money to ISIS, but the recent figures – I saw today in the press that the number of recruits to ISIS has grown and, I have to say, of course! That’s why they wanted the West to come at them. If the West comes at them, that’s their best recruiting tool…. What they’ve done in terms of recruiting youth through social media tools, what they’ve done through brutal, sadistic and public murders, it’s unprecedented historically. Their brutality is not unprecedented historically but their techniques, like social media, are, so you have to ask yourself, why are they putting beheadings and tortures on YouTube? They want to recruit from the West and they want to excite Western nations to retaliate.
“And,” she added, “I think we have to ask ourselves, what’s Saudi Arabia doing? There’s certainly a lot of concern that Saudi Arabia is actually supporting ISIS. We need to have a significant effort involving all regional governments to end the war in Syria. If we have the focus on ending the war in Syria, shutting down ISIS becomes one of the many objectives.”
On security domestically, including Bill C-51, May said, “I supported that community and Jewish schools and facilities should have additional funding for security and that it should be government funded. C-51 is in another category altogether because C-51 actually makes us less safe against terrorists in every way.”
In 2012, with Bill C-38, she said, “Stephen Harper’s administration eliminated the inspector general for CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service]. In 2015, they bring out C-51, which says CSIS can now – [with] what was in C-44 in December – is CSIS can … operate overseas and domestically, can collect intelligence and can act … [with] access to something that doesn’t exist in any other democracy anywhere around the world, which is access to a private, secret hearing to get a warrant for constitutional breach.”
With C-51, she said, there is no oversight. “It’s not a question of inadequate oversight,” she stressed. “Zero oversight of the RCMP, zero oversight of CSIS, zero oversight of the Canadian Border Services Agency, zero oversight of CSEC [Communications Security Establishment Canada]…. You take this together and – what a former MI-5 agent testifying to the Senate said was that – Canada has created a tragedy waiting to happen. If C-51 had been drafted as the legislative tool to implement the recommendations from the Air India inquiry, it wouldn’t look anything like it now looks. It would be about your intelligence agencies having pinnacle control, somebody know[ing] what everybody else is doing. Israel would never put in place a zoo like this. This is a three-ring circus with no ringmaster, and it’s dangerous.”
“We opened up our doors to ‘boat people’ from Vietnam. You could have made the same case – you could have said, there could be communist sympathizers who are sneaking into Canada. Now, the reality of the situation in Syria is that people are fleeing Syria because you can’t live there. The extent of the violence, there are very few areas of the country that are untouched by it.”
With respect to the refugee crisis, and balancing the acceptance of more immigrants with security, given that these refugees are coming from countries that inculcate antisemitism and anti-West views, May said, “We do apply security screens when people come to Canada. We always have. We opened up our doors to ‘boat people’ from Vietnam. You could have made the same case – you could have said, there could be communist sympathizers who are sneaking into Canada. Now, the reality of the situation in Syria is that people are fleeing Syria because you can’t live there. The extent of the violence, there are very few areas of the country that are untouched by it.
“I’ve helped some Syrian families reunite and I’ve known the extreme fear and terror that young men live under if they do not want to be captured by any one of the rival forces and forced into servitude,” she continued. “The military in Syria – whether it’s Bashar al-Assad’s forces … [or those that] oppose Bashar al-Assad – they’re all looking for people for their army. These young men that are fleeing, these young families that are fleeing, older people, are trying to get away from a war zone, and they are legitimate refugees. That said, we have a security screening process. They get interviewed before they come to Canada. We can create a situation where we know [through] ongoing surveillance and interviews for anyone. And, within the community itself, there’s a strong degree of networking that would not want someone coming here who posed a threat to them. We really can put in place effective security.
“Stephen Harper announced in January that we would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees and, having worked to try to bring refugee families to Canada, I absolutely say this is a system that was designed not to work. On one hand, he promised 10,000 refugees would be able to come to Canada; with the other hand, he made it impossible to accept them, which is devastating and tragic. I understand the fear, I’m not discounting it. I’ve been so impressed with the number of Jewish communities and religious leaders within the Jewish community who’ve called for us to accept more refugees. I think it matters. We call on accepting more but, obviously, not without security checks.”
May and the Green party have had to be innovative to get their ideas across during this campaign. When May was not invited to the Globe and Mail’s leaders debate on Sept. 17, for example, she countered with Twitter. Figures from North Strategic were cited in the media: “May was mentioned in 1,799 tweets in a 24-hour period leading up to the Calgary debate. That was about 300 more than NDP leader Tom Mulcair but fewer than Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.” May apparently gained 5,000 Twitter followers after the debate.
“… this may be the least fair election yet because the public expects to see all the leaders in a national televised leadership debate before the election is over, and … we are unlikely to have a single additional English language debate, and none that are broadcast nationally.”
“In terms of the fairness of the elections,” she told the Independent, “this may be the least fair election yet because the public expects to see all the leaders in a national televised leadership debate before the election is over, and it hasn’t been really explained in the media that, as things now stand, we are unlikely to have a single additional English language debate, and none that are broadcast nationally.”
In responding to a question about her party’s approach to the economy, May eschewed labels.
“Our solutions, and our view is, too, that we are not left or right,” she said. “If there’s a solution to a problem that comes from what we might say is a free-market, right-wing toolkit of solutions, like a pricing mechanism, we’ll use that, if it works. But, if you need a regulation, we’ll use regulation.
“So, our fee-and-dividend approach is less free market than Tom Mulcair’s cap-and-trade – he says the market will determine the price for carbon, I heard him say that the other night…. We’re pragmatic more than anything else. But, Greens around the world, where Greens have been in government, the kinds of programs we put in place really work…. We’re the only party left that opposes free-trade deals if they include investor-state agreements.”
As an example, she gave the Green party’s opposition to the Canada-China investment treaty. “It amazes me that it didn’t ever really get understood by the media, we never had a vote in Parliament on it, and we are trapped in the Canada-China investment treaty till the year 2045 without any real discussion of it and what it means to have the People’s Republic of China have the right to sue us for decisions we make they don’t like. I’m hopeful that, after this next election, with a minority Parliament, we can bring forward some legislation to require transparency, so that when China complains, there’s an obligation on governments to make that public, to make it known.”
The Independent has interviewed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and has an invitation out to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. The federal election is on Oct. 19.