Green Party co-leader Jonathan Pedneault.
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Pedneault. Credit: Jonathan Pedneault Credit: Jonathan Pedneault

The co-leader of the Green Party of Canada has launched a bid for a seat in the House of Commons.

Jonathan Pedneault became part of the Green Party’s leadership duo with Elizabeth May in 2022, making him the sole queer leader of a federal political party in Canada.

While Pedneault did not fully anticipate mounting an election campaign until 2025, the co-leader says his intentions of running in Quebec have always been clear.

“My initial ambition was to wait until the general election to seek a seat to rebuild the party,” Pedneault said in an interview with in late-May.. “But now that we are in a much stronger position internally, as a party nationwide, I thought it was the right fit at the right moment.”

Pedneault is running in the by-election for the Quebec riding of NDG-Westmount.

Becoming a human rights leader

He did not grow up in Westmount, but Pedneault understands first-hand the trials and tribulations of struggling to make it in the Montreal region.

“I’d love to represent the people of this very diverse community,” he said. “And also send a message to the Liberals that they have to keep their promises, that they cannot take this riding for granted – they very much do right now.”

As the gay son of a single Francophone mother, Pedneault says Westmount “was always remote from my reality.” The diverse community, who organized around food security, environmental justice and social justice, helped pave a young Pedneault the roadmap of his future.

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His mom struggled with depression throughout his childhood, sometimes being too sick to work and relying on social assistance for extended periods of time.

But Pedneault’s big, loving family from Northern Quebec helped them when times were tough.

He also found support in his teachers who encouraged him from a young age to push forward and persevere. A self-described curious kid, Pedneault was an avid reader who was “very interested in realities beyond my own,” in subjects like human history in Africa and Asia.

Despite his struggles, Pedneault has always considered himself “part of a privileged bunch.”

“That privilege is simply by virtue of being Canadian and [being] born here, and having access to free education,” he said. “A country at peace.”

That is not to say the country does not have challenges of its own, he stipulated, but it taught Pedneault he had a responsibility to harness his privilege as a Canadian to make the world a better place.

Pedneault first became involved in advocacy at age 15 when he started a high school club called the Genocide Prevention Society after watching the film Hotel Rwanda. Growing up in an era of American exceptionalism pre-9/11, he says learning about the Rwandan genocide went against everything he was taught about his country.

“We had failed to uphold one of the most basic, fundamental principles that we have committed ourselves to, the Never Again principle — we will not allow humans to kill other humans on the basis of who they are,” Pedneault said. “To understand that we had failed to do that shocked me to the core.”

Soon after, the young activist began holding conferences in high schools to raise awareness about genocide.

In his late-teens, Pedneault traveled to Chad to create a documentary on attacks against villages by Sudanese rebels in early 2008. Before he knew it, Pedneault found himself pursuing a career in journalism on a path that would ultimately lead to federal politics.

Lessons from Elizabeth May

Serving alongside co-leader May, the MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands in B.C., Pedneault says she has represented “an incredible example of integrity and hard work.”

“She works extremely hard,” he said. “Sometimes, a bit too hard.”

He pointed to her ability to pass three private members’ bills in Parliament despite the Greens not being a recognized party as a testament to her impact as a politician.

In fact, Pedneault says the Library of Congress is looking into whether May’s victories are also record-breaking for a sitting MP, calling her a “powerhouse.”

“It’s extremely difficult to build and not have a coalition, sufficient buy-in from the governing party, but also opposition parties,” he said.

The shared sense of hard work has made May and Pedneault a natural duo.

Reflecting on the tumultuous time the Greens faced in the two years before they became co-leaders, Pedneault noted the party has worked hard to rebuild support — the necessary work that candidates from more prominent parties can take for granted.

“We’ve seen, sadly, backbenchers from various parties who do not put in the work, who show up in Parliament once in a while and go on vacations while the house is sitting,” Pedneault said.

That is a problem for Canadian democracy, he argued, adding that being a politician is a crucial job — but one that should be humbling as well.

Pedneault’s time investigating human rights abuses abroad taught him something important about politics.

“You can pass as many laws or conventions as you want, but if states won’t actually implement them, then they are not as good as the paper they are written on.”

Asked whether he would reconsider his role as Green Party co-leader if his campaign proves unsuccessful, Pedneault offered a decisive answer:


Image: Gilad Cohen

Stephen Wentzell

Stephen Wentzell is‘s national politics reporter, a cat-dad to Benson, and a Real Housewives fanatic. Based in Halifax, he writes solutions-based, people-centred...