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Green Party MPs Defended Top Staffer Who Helped Cover-Up Sexual Abuse at Previous Job, Leaked Email Shows

The email sent to the Green Party's federal council was co-signed by Green MPs Paul Manly, Jenica Atwen and Elizabeth May

October 5, 2020

The Green Party of Canada’s three member caucus, including former leader Elizabeth May, defended the party’s former executive director following revelations that he was involved in a cover-up of allegations of sexual abuse at a previous job.

The email, newly obtained by PressProgress, shows the three Green MPs pleading with its federal council to walk back a vote in early August to accept the resignation of Green Party Executive Director Prateek Awasthi, arguing the decision could harm the party’s public image — particularly on “issues of race.”

CBC News reported this weekend that the Green Party has been in “turmoil” in recent months after the party learned Awasthi, who was hired in May, helped management cover-up sexual abuse when he worked at Engineers Without Borders and also faced additional allegations of harassment personally.

According to CBC News, an internal report conducted by Elizabeth May indicated Awasthi disclosed to the party that he was part of EWB management’s “efforts to disparage and ignore claims of sexual harassment and assault.”

Despite these revelations, May said she stood behind the party’s executive director.

“I do believe he bullied junior staff in the spring of 2019, but has amended his conduct and learned from his experience,” May wrote. “We, as a party, are at a perilous moment. We are on the verge of a public lynching of an innocent human being.”

On Sunday, the Green Party announced Awasthi’s resignation nearly two months after the controversy first began. In a statement, Awasthi said that while he denies the allegations against him, he submitted his resignation to avoid becoming a “distraction to the work of the party.”

The email, dated August 5, was titled “Prateek and the FC decision-making process.” It was sent by Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly and co-signed by Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin and Saanich — Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May.

Photo credit: Green Party of Canada (Facebook)

One former member of the Green Party’s federal council who resigned as a result of the controversy, confirmed the authenticity of the email which she described as “disturbing.”

“The letter from the MPs really shocked me and stunned me,” Lorraine Hewlett told PressProgress. “The letter had not been marked confidential and I thought ‘these are three Members of Parliament taking a very disturbing stand on an issue of sexual harassment, abuse or assault’.”

“It shocked me.”

“As three Green Members of Parliament, we are writing to express our deep concern that this council’s actions threaten the survival of our party,” the email signed by Manly, Atwin and May begins, adding that the council’s decision to accept Awasthi’s resignation “misunderstand(s) the reputational risk of the real world of politics.”

The email offers several notable arguments in favour of retaining the top staffer.

For one thing, the Green MPs suggested that Awasthi’s “first-hand experience” in a “misogynistic work culture” could be seen as an asset rather than as a liability:

“We now have a team member who has had first-hand experience with a misogynistic work culture and has made clear their regrets and intentions as well as the required steps for mitigation within a new work culture — wherein we have a chance to do great things and truly usher in change.”

The three MPs also offered an intersectional analysis, suggesting that although survivors of sexual abuse ought to “feel safe,” so too should “the younger Greens, including racialized and queer youth” who felt that Awasthi was “the only one making efforts” to give them a “safe space” in the party:

“We do not discount the experience of women who have been abused … All of the Green Party members, including council members, who have ever experienced sexual harassment and abuse need to feel safe now, in this party. So too do the younger Greens, including racialized and queer youth, who have stated to all of us that Prateek was the only one making efforts – for which some have waited years – that give them that safe space that people of privilege have been able to take for granted.”

Manly, Atwin and May also underlined that removing the executive director could hurt the party’s image on “issues of race”:

“We also think you have fundamentally misread the political landscape if you think issues of race are not a large issue and that our party is not vulnerable.”

Along the same lines, the MPs also argued that removing the top staffer could undermine the Green Party’s efforts to “achieve greater diversity”:

“We had the least diverse roster of candidates of any party in the 2019 election. We are overwhelmingly a white party. All of us as MPs are white and we have a very large and obvious lack of diversity in our party membership across Canada. So now, a predominantly (not entirely) white council has pushed through by what can be referred to as procedural ambush, the firing of the first Executive Director who is a person of colour. It being on controversial terms, this could easily be a fatal error as we make the case we are working to achieve greater diversity.”

Paul Manly did not respond to multiple requests from PressProgress to clarify the statements in the letter signed by himself, Atwin and May.

Green Party press secretary Rosie Emery also did not respond to requests for comment on behalf of the party.

Excerpts of email from Manly, Atwin and May to GPC federal council

Below is the full text of the email:

“To Council,

As three Green Members of Parliament, we are writing to express our deep concern that this council’s actions threaten the survival of our party, fall far below the standards of Green values and misunderstand the reputational risk of the real world of politics.

This is an issue that we believe has been misrepresented. This is not a question of our executive director. It is a question of a separate organization and their code of conduct. We now have a team member who has had first-hand experience with a misogynistic work culture and has made clear their regrets and intentions as well as the required steps for mitigation within a new work culture- wherein we have a chance to do great things and truly usher in change.

We do not discount the experience of women who have been abused. We all want to support Chelsey Rhodes on her path to justice and her experience with Engineers Without Borders. All of the Green Party members, including council members, who have ever experienced sexual harassment and abuse need to feel safe now, in this party. So too do the younger Greens, including racialized and queer youth, who have stated to all of us that Prateek was the only one making efforts – for which some have waited years – that give them that safe space that people of privilege have been able to take for granted.

We also think you have fundamentally misread the political landscape if you think issues of race are not a large issue and that our party is not vulnerable. We had the least diverse roster of candidates of any party in the 2019 election. We are overwhelmingly a white party. All of us as MPs are white and we have a very large and obvious lack of diversity in our party membership across Canada. So now, a predominantly (not entirely) white council has pushed through by what can be referred to as procedural ambush, the firing of the first Executive Director who is a person of colour. It being on controversial terms, this could easily be a fatal error as we make the case we are working to achieve greater diversity.

As a caucus, we are firmly committed to Green values. Every decision we make – how to vote on bills – what position to take on hot topics – we make by consensus. It is especially important to make decisions by consensus when the issue at hand is divisive.

The rejection of a set of decisions from your July 26th meeting that set the table for evidence gathering, careful consideration and a decision by consensus is not acceptable.

We urge you to proceed with the motions that were agreed to on July 26th. The outcome may in the end be the same, but it will be based on a consensus decision-making process that upholds Green principles.

Sincerely,
Paul Manly
Jenica Atwin
Elizabeth May”

 


 

UPDATE: Following publication of this story, former Green Party Executive Director Prateek Awasthi provided PressProgress with the following statement disputing some of the allegations alluded to in the Green MP’s letter:

Unlike the Board Chair, CEO and Vice-President, I had no decision-making role in EWB’s response to claims that it had not appropriately handled a case of sexual harassment in 2011. When asked about it, I read out statements prepared by lawyers, and sent to me by the Board of Directors. When I learned that these statements were disputed, I retracted them, and publicly apologized. I think any reasonable person in my place would have done the same. I have gone above and beyond and taken responsibility for the unintended consequences, real and perceived, of my actions, regardless of my knowledge or intentions. I think people need to take a closer look at the facts before jumping to judgment.”

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Candidate for Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party Liked and Shared COVID-19, QAnon Conspiracy Theories

Sask Party candidate explored possibility pandemic may have been caused by 5G technology and ‘galactic cosmic rays’

October 2, 2020

A candidate for Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party has deleted Facebook posts amid questions about his social media activity relating to COVID-19 and QAnon conspiracy theories.

Daryl Cooper, who was acclaimed the Sask Party candidate in Saskatoon- Eastview in June 2019, made some of the questionable postings only in recent months.

In May 2020, Cooper shared a lengthy post on his campaign’s official Facebook page titled “the origin of COVID-19.”

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