Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada 2020–21, lawyer, activist (born 3 November 1972 in Toronto, ON). Annamie Paul has worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and with various international organizations devoted to preserving human rights and fighting climate change. She served as the leader of the Green Party of Canada from October 2020 to November 2021. She was the first Black Canadian and the first Jewish woman to be elected as leader of a major federal political party in Canada.
Annamie Paul was born in Toronto, the third of four children. Her mother, Ena, was born in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. (See Caribbean Canadians.) Ena immigrated to Canada with her mother, Paul’s grandmother, in the 1960s through a work sponsorship program. Ena was a teacher in St. Kitts. Despite facing challenges upon her arrival in Canada to maintain her career as a teacher, she had a successful career in Toronto schools for more than 30 years. Paul’s father, Peter, also hailed from the island of Dominica, in the Caribbean. He moved to Toronto where he met Paul’s mother.
Paul and her family lived in the suburb of Brampton. They also spent time at her grandmother’s house in the Little Jamaica neighbourhood of Toronto, near Eglinton Ave. West and Caledonia Road. Annamie’s younger sister, Ngozi Paul, is a successful actor, writer, director and producer. She is perhaps best known as the star of Global TV’s 'da Kink in my Hair (2007–2009). (See also trey anthony.)
Annamie Paul and her siblings attended French immersion school growing up. (See also Second-Language Instruction.) She graduated high school from Runnymede Collegiate Institute in Toronto. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa. It was there that Paul gained early entry into law school and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree. Paul was called to the Ontario bar in 1998 and later obtained a master’s degree in Public Affairs at Princeton University. She won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and attended on a full scholarship, graduating in 2001. In addition to English, Paul is fluent in French, Catalan and Spanish.
Annamie Paul met her husband, Toronto-born native Mark Freeman, in law school at the University of Ottawa. Paul and Freeman, who is a human rights lawyer, married in 1996. They have two children, Malachai and Jonas. Paul converted to her husband’s faith of Judaism while at Princeton under the teaching of rabbi and fellow Canadian Jim Diamond.
After graduating from Princeton, Paul became the first Canadian to win a $100,000 fellowship from by the US-based Echoing Green Foundation. She used the money to found the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity in public life. In 2005, Paul and her family moved to Belgium, where she worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. She also worked as a director for Crisis Action, which works to protect civilians in conflict zones.
Paul and her family then moved to Barcelona, where she cofounded the organization BIPP HUB. Its mandate is to help assist organizations working on global challenges such as climate change. After moving back to Canada with her family, Paul saw an opportunity to become more directly involved in politics.
Early Political Career
Early on in her life, Paul was engaged with public policy and politics. Her mother took her to many protests, rallies and strikes during her childhood. She later worked as a page and an intern at the Ontario legislature, as well as a Senate page. Upon returning to Canada from Europe, Paul attended various Liberal and NDP meetings, but felt she most aligned with the Green Party; especially their stance on issues such as climate change.
Paul joined the Green Party and was chosen as the party’s shadow cabinet minister of foreign affairs. In the 2019 federal election, Paul ran as the Green Party candidate for Toronto Centre. (See Toronto.) She finished fourth behind NDP and Conservative candidates. Soon after the election, Paul was appointed by the then Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, to the Green Party’s shadow cabinet as the International Affairs critic.
Green Party Leadership
In February 2020, Annamie Paul became a candidate in the Green Party’s leadership race. In September 2020, Paul applied to be a candidate in the October 2020 federal by-election for Toronto Centre. She ran against Liberal candidate Marci Ien. On 3 October 2020, Annamie Paul was officially elected as the new leader of the Green Party of Canada. She thus became the first Black Canadian and first Jewish woman to be elected as the leader of a major political party in Canada. On 26 October 2020, Paul placed second in the Toronto Centre by-election.
Annamie Paul’s leadership was severely weakened by infighting within the Green Party. The party was divided over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some members criticized Paul for not being sufficiently critical of Israel. One of Paul’s advisers also openly advocated defeating Green MPs whom he viewed to be anti-Semitic. The conflict further escalated as some criticized Paul for not reigning in her adviser. Eventually, one Green MP switched to the Liberals. Some called to remove Paul as party leader, and senior party officials tried to revoke her party membership. She nonetheless remained party leader going into the 2021 elections.
The Green Party suffered a serious setback during the 2021 general elections. The party only won 2.3 per cent of votes and elected two MPs, compared to 6.5 per cent and three MPs in 2019. Moreover, Paul lost her bid for a seat in Toronto Centre, a riding widely seen as a longshot for her party; she finished fourth with fewer than 4,000 votes. A few weeks after the election, she resigned as party leader.
Annamie Paul has been an Action Canada Fellow (2003–04) and an Echoing Green Fellow (2002). She is a member of the University of Ottawa Common Law Honour Society, alumna of the Government of Canada Recruitment of Policy Leaders Program and a recipient of the Harry Jerome Awards. (See also Harry Jerome.) While volunteering with Operation Black Vote Canada in 2019, Paul co-created the 1834 Fellowship, which trains young Black Canadian policy leaders. Paul also served on the steering committee for Equal Voice Canada.