Just how much anti-Semitism is acceptable, Elizabeth May?

Elizabeth May and Monika Schaefer

Last month, Elizabeth May was ensnared in another one of those embarrassing brouhahas for which her Green Party has become well-known. One of her perennial candidates in Alberta, a woman named Monika Schaefer, was revealed to be quite an ugly anti-semite and Holocaust denier. May described Schaefer’s views as “shocking” but news to her, and moved swiftly to eject her from the party. In an attempt at damage control, it was noted that Schaefer had been “disallowed” to run for the party in the previous two elections, though this proved a less than impressive defense after Elizabeth May admitted Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for previous vetos of her candidacy.

Thanks to the help of Ben Shachar, a reader of mine and student at York University, I have come across information that proves Elizabeth May was lying in her characterization of Ms. Schaefer’s history with the Green Party, and May’s personal knowledge of Ms. Schaefer’s anti-Semitic views.

Contrary to her claim that Schaefer’s views took her by surprise, Elizabeth May was directly exposed to Schaefer’s anti-Semitism as early as 2014 and was actually involved in negotiations with Schaefer in the run up to a 2014 by-election in which May attempted to get Schaefer to tone down her anti-Semitism to a level that would be publicly palatable. Only when Schaefer refused did May veto her candidacy — which, again, contradicts May’s claim that Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for her doing so.

Timeline of Events

Much of the information contained in this post comes from a January 4, 2015 article on the anti-Semitic website Radical Press that contains multiple quotes from Monika Schaefer, including portions of emails Ms. Schaefer sent to Elizabeth May in the past.

According to the article, on August 5, 2014 Schaefer sent Elizabeth May an email complaining about the controversy surrounding then-Green Party president Paul Estrin’s conservative views on Israel. Schaefer called Estrin, who is Jewish, “a Zionist shill” who “will destroy the Green Party of Canada from within” and accused him of trying to hijack the Greens “on behalf of a supremacist cult.” She demanded May fire him, saying “it is time to free ourselves of the shackles of Zionism. In the teachings of the Talmud, we the goyim are lower than cattle, and we are quickly becoming enslaved.” (Estrin resigned as party president that same day and has since complained that “many in the Jewish community” are disturbed by the “abuse and unbalance” that animates the Green Party’s attitude towards Israel).

On September 17, 2014 Conservative Yellowhead MP Rob Merrifield announced his resignation from the House of Commons to accept a job working as an Alberta diplomat in Washington DC, forcing a by-election, which was held on Monday, November 17. Schaefer wanted to run for the Greens, as she had run in the riding three times prior, including two times under Elizabeth May’s leadership, in 2008 and 2011 (May became Green Party leader in August of 2006). In the Radical Press article, Schaefer offers this description of what happened:

“Lo-and-behold a by-election was called in my riding of Yellowhead, Alberta in October of 2014 but because of the letter regarding Paul Estrin I was rejected by the GPC as a candidate. Elizabeth May told me I could apologize to Paul for the letter, thereby making it ‘go away’. I refused, because that would have been the beginning of the road to compromise on truth.”

Accordingly, Schaefer did not run for the Greens. It appears that she continued to remain an active figure in the party.

A few months later, on December 30, 2014 Schaefer sent Elizabeth May an email complimenting her for a decision she made earlier that month to present a “truther” petition to the House of Commons and encouraged her to double down. The rambling letter contains several anti-Semitic flourishes, including mention of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and reference to Israeli “foreknowledge” of the 9/11 attacks. May took a lot of flack for the 9/11 petition and eventually more or less disavowed it, defending herself with the factually incorrect claim that MPs “have to” present to the House any petitions their constituents give them. This backdown offended Schaefer, who on July 30, 2015 sent an email to Elizabeth May quitting the Green Party “effective immediately,” citing May’s lack of dedication to the cause of 9/11 Trutherism. It appears this is the reason why Schaefer did not run in the October 19, 2015 general election.

Schaefer’s anti-Semitic video was not published on YouTube until nearly a year later, on June 17, 2016. After the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed outrage and the CBC reported on it on July 15, 2016 Elizabeth May issued an official statement claiming to be “shocked” by Schaefer and her “terribly misguided and untrue statements.”

Later that same day, I, J.J. McCullough, and a guy named Daly de Gagné asked Elizabeth May some questions on Twitter. Our exchange went like this:

Note that while I was incorrect about Schaefer running “three times” under May, Elizabeth May’s response that “1st time she ran I was not leader” is a red herring. While it’s true that Schaefer ran in the 2006 general election before May was appointed head of the party, Schaefer did, as noted above, run under May’s leadership in 2008 and 2011. She did not run in a 2011 by-election or the 2015 general.

New questions for Elizabeth May:

1) When did Monika Schaefer first begin sending you anti-Semitic emails?

2) Monika Schaefer’s 2014 email to you about Paul Estrin was clearly anti-Semitic. Why did you not initiate efforts to expel her from the party at that time?

3) According to Schaefer, you offered her an opportunity to remain a candidate in the 2014 Yellowhead by-election if she apologized to Estrin. This seems preposterous given anti-Semitism is a worldview and not something that can be cleared with a mere apology. Why were you interested in allowing Schaefer to continue to represent the Green Party? Will you release your email exchange with her so we can see the exact terms of any “deal” you offered her?

4) What was Schaefer’s role in the Green party between August 2014 and July 2015?

5) Why did you lie about being “shocked” by Schaefer’s anti-Semitism, given you clearly had been exposed to it multiple times prior to her video?

6) Why did you tell Mr. Gagné that Monika Schaefer was going to be “expelled” from the Green Party when she had already quit? Did she rejoin the party at some point?

7) Why did you say Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for her candidacy being disallowed in 2014? Did you consider her anti-Semitic criticism of Paul Estrin to be an offense distinct from general anti-Semitism? How anti-Semitic is a Green Party candidate allowed to be?

UPDATE: At an August 22, 2016 press conference in which she stated she would not, contrary to popular opinion, be stepping down as Green leader, Elizabeth May wandered into the topic of anti-Semitism within her party, insisting “I don’t think there are anti-Semitic people within the Green Party” and claiming the party was actually hyper-vigilant on this front. She claimed that the “only” time people have been disallowed to run for the Green Party was over what she called “this issue,” adding “I’m not going to say those people were anti-Semitic, but there was concern.” It again begs the question as to what Elizabeth May considers anti-Semitic.

UPDATE 2: On October 24, 2016 VICE reporter Mack Lamoureux reported that Ms. Schaefer was scheduled to speak at a Canadian neo-Nazi convention known as “Blood and Honour.”


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