Hamilton-Centre MPP Sarah Jama has been censured over her comments about the Israel-Gaza war on the same day that she was removed from the Ontario NDP caucus.
On Monday, the Doug Ford government voted in favour of a motion that not only acts as a formal disapproval of the Hamilton-Centre MPP’s statements, but also prevents the Speaker from recognizing her until a formal apology is made and the social media post is deleted.
The motion passed 63-23, with the NDP voting against the censure.
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In a statement, NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the motion is “undemocratic” and said the Progressive Conservatives have “disenfranchised the voters of Hamilton Centre.”
“This extreme motion has barred a member from participating in the Legislature just six months after she were elected. It sets a dangerous precedent.”
However, the NDP’s support of Jama ended with the censure vote.
Just moments earlier, Jama was ejected from the Ontario New Democratic Party.
Stiles said in a statement there is room for different and dissenting viewpoints in her caucus, and that she and Jama had initially come to an agreement, “which included working together in good faith with no surprises.”
“Since then, she has undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken the trust of her colleagues,” Stiles wrote. “Some of Ms. Jama’s actions have contributed to unsafe work environments for staff.”
“As such, with the support of our Ontario NDP MPPs, I have been left with no option but to remove Ms. Jama from our Caucus.”
In a statement, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said it has heard "much concern and anger" from its community about the decision to censure and remove Jama from caucus.
"We have engaged in conversation with Leader Stiles' and we understand that the NDP maintains that it was not her position on Palestine that drove the decision," the statement reads.
"That being said ... we feel that her MPP Jama clarified her statement and that we do not agree with using the conflict in the Middle East to score political points. Today's decision and this entire episode will have negative consequences for the people MPP Jama represents, including Muslims, Black Canadians, Palestinian Canadians and others."
When the Israel-Gaza conflict first broke out, Jama posted a strongly worded statement that called for an end of “all occupation of Palestinian land.” The statement did not recognize the attacks of Hamas on Oct. 7, which resulted in thousands of deaths and the kidnapping of Israeli citizens.
While she did apologize and condemn the “terrorism by Hamas” in a subsequent statement the following day, Jama has remained tight lipped as her colleagues at Queen’s Park debated her censure.
She spoke in the legislature for the first time on Monday, and did not apologize or back down from her original commentary. Instead she reiterated her call for an end to the “Israeli apartheid.”
“The Ford government has nothing meaningful to say about these atrocities, and has now targeted me to distract from its own scandals. Those of us committed to Palestinian life refuse to be distracted,” she said.
“I ground my words in the realities of Israeli apartheid, and Israel’s ongoing domination and occupation of Palestinian lands. Governments and institutions in Canada are trying to use their weight to silence us, to silence workers, students, educators, and peace-loving people who dare to support Palestine. To every person taking risks to speak up for Palestinian dignity and safety, I see you, I hear you, and I am with you.”
Jama would not speak with media after question period. Supporters surrounded her in the hall as she left the legislature, blocking reporters from asking questions and using scarves to prevent cameras from filming the MPP.
Jama is also threatening legal action against the premier over what she is calling "defamatory" remarks that accuse her of having a history of antisemitism and of supporting “the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people.”
A cease-and-desist letter was sent to the Premier’s Office on Friday argues the comments have done serious harm to Jama’s reputation and imply that she is racist towards Jewish people and sympathetic to terrorism.
Ford will not be complying with the cease-and-desist order. The lawyer representing Ford says his client denies accusations that he has defamed Jama and argues it is a “regrettable attempt to curtail the freedom of speech and freedom of expression of Premier Ford on an issue of tremendous public importance.”
“If your client chooses to commence a legal action against Premier Ford, such an action will be defended vigorously,” a letter sent to Jama’s legal representation says.