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Kitchener Centre NDP riding association calls for party leader Marit Stiles to resign after Sarah Jama ousted

The Kitchener Centre NDP riding association has called on Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles to resign, a move being criticized by the local candidate in a yet-to-be called byelection.

The riding association publicly released a letter it says it sent to Stiles on Wednesday asking her to resign immediately, “due to her colossal failure to lead at an unprecedented time of war and rise of fascism.”

It was released after Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama was removed from the NDP caucus Monday, following her comments earlier this month in support of the people of Gaza as the Hamas-Israeli war that began Oct. 7 continues. 

Jama’s comments prompted Premier Doug Ford to call for the MPP’s resignation and he accused her of antisemitism. 

Stiles said in a statement that while the caucus allows different viewpoints, some of Jama’s actions since making her comments “have contributed to unsafe work environments for staff.”

“Ms. Jama and I had reached an agreement to keep her in the NDP caucus, which included working together in good faith with no surprises. Our caucus and staff have made significant efforts to support her during an undoubtedly difficult time,” Stiles said.

A woman speaking into a mic.
Jama was kicked out of the NDP caucus this week. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

“Since then, she has undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken the trust of her colleagues.”

Kitchener Centre seat currently empty

The Kitchener Centre NDP riding association letter said the group felt Stiles failed to support Jama.

“Rather than supporting MPP Sarah Jama’s courageous leadership and principled stand to support human rights, you decided to distance yourself from MPP Sarah Jama for what appears to be short-term political calculus,” the letter said.

The Kitchener Centre seat is vacant. Former MPP Laura Mae Lindo, who was an NDP member, stepped down in July to take on a new job at the University of Waterloo.

No date has been set for a byelection.

The NDP candidate is Debbie Chapman, a current Kitchener city councillor. In an email, Chapman told CBC News she was “very disappointed” the riding association executive did not consult with her when writing or releasing the letter.

“I am proud to be running to be the provincial voice for the people of Kitchener Centre, and to do so under the NDP — the only party that has taken a principled stance on the conflict in Israel-Palestine. I stand behind our leader,” Chapman wrote.

Stiles has not yet responded to CBC K-W’s request for comment on the riding association letter.

Call for leadership review

The Kitchener Centre NDP riding association isn’t the only one condemning how Stiles has handled the situation with Jama.

The Hamilton Centre association for the riding Jama represents put out a statement saying removing Jama from the party “constitutes an attack on democracy, social justice and all those activists who fight for truth and human rights.”

The Hamilton Centre riding association called for a leadership review.

Jama apologized online for her comments the day after she made them. 

This week, Jama was removed from the party and censured at Queen’s Park, meaning Speaker Ted Arnott cannot let her speak in the Ontario Legislature until she makes a verbal apology.

Jama said this week she will continue to work on behalf of her Hamilton constituents.

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