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Green interim leader warns far-right is wooing Canadians who feel left behind

Kuttner: far-right ideology made to look like a space where people could connect and feel supported
Green Party Interim Leader Amita Kuttner holds an umbrella for newly announced Deputy Leader Luc Joli-Coeur during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The interim leader of the Green party has warned the political far right in Canada is gaining strength from people who are completely frustrated and feel they no longer lead meaningful lives.

Amita Kuttner said the extreme right is appealing to an undercurrent of Canadians who feel left behind but may not yet share the same hateful ideology as extremists.

Kuttner, who uses the pronouns they/them, warned that the far right masks its ideology to build strength and attracts people disaffected by mainstream politics.

They said the Greens have traditionally been supported by “people who have just lost faith or never had it.” But they are concerned by the number of people in Canada who are “just full-on checked out” and that the far right may be targeting them.

“One of the things that is attracting people to the far right now is the simplicity of messaging, but also community,” Kuttner said in an interview.

They said the far-right ideology is “hateful” and deals in misinformation, but it is being made to look like a space where people could connect and feel supported.

“There is an undercurrent of people who are just completely frustrated with everything and that is because they don’t have access to living meaningful lives any more,” they said. “Things are not improving.”

Kuttner warned the far right could benefit because a disaffected group of Canadians feels “mainstream politics isn’t working. They are not giving us solutions.”

The far-right organizers, Kuttner said, “say the things the disaffected want to hear in order to gain strength.”

The interim Green leader said it was important that politicians find solutions that do not leave people behind, or treat people as “extractable commodities.”

Kuttner, who is an astrophysicist from Vancouver, said since being appointed interim leader in November last year they have toured the country meeting Green members and community groups and is trying to rebuild the party.

The Greens suffered a devastating result at the last election, returning just two MPs after a campaign riven by internal squabbling and sniping at the former leader Annamie Paul, who resigned after the election. She said leading the Greens had been one of the worst experiences of her life.

But Kuttner said the very public infighting was not representative of the party.

“The nastiness was not something that was pervasive and it was limited to a pretty small group of people and some toxic Facebook groups,” Kuttner said. “It wasn’t what we are like at all but that became our image.”

They said that since becoming leader they had experienced a bit of nastiness but had brushed it off. Generally, the experience of leading the Greens had been “inspiring” they said.

“A lot of what I have been talking about on tour is creating the space for people to organize and mobilize” they said. “So that you are bringing people into a place that people experience joy and also feel that their work is impactful.”

The Green party is beginning its search for a new permanent leader but Kuttner, who identifies as non-binary, said they don’t want the full-time job.

On Tuesday, Kuttner announced in Ottawa the appointment of two deputy leaders of the Green party: Angela Davidson, an Indigenous advocate known for defending ancient forests on Vancouver Island, and Luc Joli-Coeur, a former urban planning consultant who worked in the Quebec government.

—Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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