Astrophysicist Amita Kuttner elected as interim leader of Canada’s Green Party

OTTAWA — The Greens have elected a non-binary astrophysicist as their party’s interim leader.

Amita Kuttner, a black hole expert, was appointed on Wednesday by the Federal Council of the Greens to lead the party until a new leader is elected next year.

Kuttner, 30, will be the youngest person and the first transgender and person of East Asian descent to lead a federal political party.

Paul Manly, the former MP who lost his British Columbia seat in the September election, withdrew from the leadership race on Wednesday.

His withdrawal from the contest in a letter to the council surprised senior Greens, sparking speculation that he could run for president to lead the party permanently.

Manly, who was supported by former leader Elizabeth May, said he is currently “taking on other projects” in his community.

Kuttner, who opposed Annamie Paul for the green leadership last year, has been an outspoken advocate for measures to tackle flooding and climate change. Their mother was killed and their father seriously injured in a mudslide in 2005 after their home in North Vancouver was crushed.

Kuttner runs the Moonlight Institute, a nonprofit that researches ways to adapt to the climate crisis. They have served as the Green Party’s science and innovation critic and were a candidate in Burnaby-North Seymour’s BC riding in the 2019 federal election.

The interim leader will be in the post for up to six months before a full-time leader can be elected to succeed Paul, who formally stepped down as Green leader earlier this month.

Paul said leading the Greens was the worst period of her life and has surrendered her party membership.

The party has been ravaged by infighting in the past year and saw its support plummet in the election, with two MPs returning but losing a significant share of the vote.

Kuttner faces the task of trying to unite the divided party, which is also plagued by financial difficulties.

In a statement, Kuttner said they were “honored to have been selected … at this time of transition and renewal.”

“I assume this responsibility fully aware of the magnitude of the challenges we face, but I am confident that we will overcome them and become stronger, more united and more confident about our vital role in national politics,” said they.

Federal Council president Lorraine Rekmans said their selection was “an important step forward in reviving our party” and would help “build up” the Greens.

“Amita has the political and life experience that makes her extremely qualified to take our party through a period of renewal, help reconnect with our membership, reform our approach to equity, diversity and inclusion within the party, and prepare for the next leadership contest,” said Rekmans.

Kuttner spoke out this week after Mike Morrice, the newly elected Green MP, was not allowed to speak in a debate on Monday, the first day of the parliamentary session.

“Apparently we welcome people on their first day in the House of Commons by not allowing them to speak. It is clear that representation of all people is not important to some MPs,” they said on Twitter.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2021.

Correction:

This is a corrected story. An earlier version used incorrect pronouns for Amita Kuttner.

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