Meryam Haddad: Climate crisis is ‘the biggest social justice issue of our time’

By Scott Costen

BOXING enthusiast Meryam Haddad has brought her fighting spirit to the race to succeed Elizabeth May.

A Syrian immigrant who grew up in lower-income Montreal neighbourhoods, she fought to attend university, graduate from law school, and eventually seek the leadership of the Green Party of Canada (GPC).

“I’ve been fighting for social justice ever since I started working, representing some of the most marginalized people in this country,” she told Redaction Politics in a recent interview.

An immigration lawyer, Haddad represents refugees from some of the most troubled countries in the world. She also volunteers to help newcomers from the LGBTQIA+ community to which she belongs.

In many ways, she is an accidental politician.

“I never really planned to be in politics,” she said. “That was not something I ever thought about.”

Haddad was a candidate for the first time during last year’s federal election. She represented the GPC in Châteauguay – Lacolle, finishing fifth in a field of eight.

She has also served in the party’s shadow cabinet as immigration and refugee critic.

Like many Greens, Haddad feels the 2019 GPC campaign was a missed opportunity.

Despite having many progressive policies, “the party for some reason decided to go ahead with a centrist kind of slogan,” she said. “I think we weren’t clear what we stood for, which is why we weren’t able to elect more than three MPs.”

Haddad describes herself as an eco-socialist and says climate change is “the biggest social justice issue of our time.”

“We are facing extinction,” she said. “We only have a few years to act. And I believe that, as a millennial, I can inspire and attract the youth to join the (GPC) and to join this movement for change.”

Haddad is advocating a Green New Deal that includes a green federal jobs guarantee, nationalized and affordable internet, and the phasing out of fossil fuels by 2030.

“I believe I’m a leader who is bold, authentic and will have the political courage to bring forward the changes that are required to save us from extinction,” she said.

Haddad has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of Canada and has received an “A-” rating from Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

But the endorsement she’s most proud of is the new, predominantly younger, members she has brought into the GPC.

“The momentum we’ve been building is really based on that,” she said. “It’s a grassroots campaign.”

Haddad believes her ability to identify and connect with younger voters would help boost the party’s fortunes next election. “If we talk to the youth with clear messaging and clear ideas and clear policies, then we’ll have a lot of votes that way,” she said.

A proponent of grassroots party democracy who favours decentralizing decision-making, Haddad was not planning to release a full leadership platform.

“Our platform should be based on the policies voted on by our members,” she said.

But requests from those who will be choosing the next GPC leader have prompted her to begin assembling a platform that will be published in the coming days.

Many of Haddad’s policy planks are already in place, even if they haven’t been released in a complete package.

“Canadian foreign policy should be independent of the political interests of Washington,” she said.

This means advocating for disarmament and pursuing peace around the world. It also means addressing the mining industry’s transgressions in the Global South, she said.

“Canada must take a principled and strong stance in support of universal human rights and international law by placing economic and political sanctions on countries that violate human rights,” she said.

On immigration, Haddad would like to see improved recognition of professional credentials for newcomers to Canada. She said a guaranteed liveable income would also help immigrants by allowing them to seek the best and most suitable employment available to them.

Canada’s borders must be open to refugees, she said, including the increasing number of refugees created by accelerating climate change.

Ultimately, Haddad believes she is the candidate who can best reflect the changing face of Canada and advance a new brand of politics.

“The status quo is something we absolutely need to avoid,” she said. “I really believe in Canada in 2020 we need somebody that represents progress.”

Featured Image: Meryam Haddad campaign

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