Ontario New Democrats have kicked Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama out of caucus, nearly two weeks after she posted a controversial statement in support of Palestinians.
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said in a statement Monday 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.
“Since then, she has undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken the trust of her colleagues.”
By midday Monday, Jama was listed with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an Independent.
The news comes after a tumultuous couple of weeks for the first-time MPP following her statement Oct. 10 in support of the people of Gaza in the Hamas-Israeli conflict. The statement prompted Premier Doug Ford to call for Jama’s resignation and he accused her of antisemitism.
Jama’s office served a cease and desist letter to Ford last Thursday, according to her lawyer, Stephen Ellis, and the Legal Centre for Palestine. The letter said if Ford did not remove his social media post and publicly apologize, Jama would pursue legal action for defamation.
“Ms. Jama maintains the post was reckless and malicious,” the statement said. “Ms. Jama will not tolerate Premier Ford’s attempts to tarnish her reputation in such a public manner.”
Stiles responded to the legal notice last week, calling the premier’s accusations of Jama “inflammatory” and saying the Ford government was “repeatedly and cynically fanning the flames of division during such a painful time.”
Jama also said on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday that her Hamilton Centre office staff were directed to work remotely because they had “received a number of concerning calls and emails that have made us question the safety of remaining open for walk-ins.”
NDP will still vote against censuring Jama
The Progressive Conservatives have also tabled a motion to censure Jama in the House.
In Stiles’s statement Monday that announced Jama’s removal from caucus, she said the Ontario NDP will still vote against the “extreme motion.”
“We do not believe the government should use its majority to strip a member of their right to speak and vote,” Stiles said. “This is an extreme step that will disenfranchise the voters of Hamilton Centre.”
Jama’s original statement posted to X called for an immediate ceasefire as well as an “end to all occupation of Palestinian land.”
She focused largely on the Palestinian territories, saying “violence and retaliation rooted in settler colonialism have taken the lives of far too many innocent people.” She did not directly mention the Hamas attacks.
The statement prompted both anger and support.
‘I hope even more of you will speak out’: Jama
Shortly before Stiles’s announcement, Jama spoke in the House on Monday. She reaffirmed her support for Palestinians in Gaza and opposition to Israel’s military action in retaliation to the Hamas attacks.
“I restate my call for an immediate ceasefire by Israeli forces, and for the immediate restoration of food, water, fuel, and electricity to Gaza,” Jama said. “I applaud the many elected officials in Canada who have joined this call in recent days, and I hope even more of you will speak out.”
She described Israel’s historical and continued actions as “domination and occupation of Palestinian land.”
“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,” Jama said. “To every person taking risks to speak up for Palestinian dignity and safety, I see you, I hear you, and I am with you.”
Booting Jama from caucus draws criticism and praise
The decision to boot Jama from caucus led to condemnation and praise online.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs posted to X, saying it was “pleased” to see the move.
“Ms. Jama’s remarks were inappropriate, egregious, and hurtful to Jewish and Israeli Canadians,” the centre wrote.
Michael Levitt, president and chief executive officer of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, echoed similar sentiments, saying it was “important to see” Stiles take the “necessary steps.”
“Jama’s abhorrent and reckless words and actions have caused repeated hurt and harm to the Jewish community in her riding of Hamilton Centre and far beyond,” he wrote on X.
We are pleased that <a href=”https://twitter.com/MaritStiles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MaritStiles</a> has taken action and removed <a href=”https://twitter.com/SarahJama_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SarahJama_</a> from the <a href=”https://twitter.com/OntarioNDP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@OntarioNDP</a> caucus. <br><br>Ms. Jama’s remarks were inappropriate, egregious, and hurtful to Jewish and Israeli Canadians. Antisemitism has no place in our democracy. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/l0SB4DtRWm”>https://t.co/l0SB4DtRWm</a>
Meanwhile, union leaders expressed disappointment in the decision.
Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, called it a “sad, sad day,” adding that Jama is a “necessary and strongly supported voice.”
“This is a deeply troubling and massively dangerous move,” he said on X.
“What my party the [Ontario NDP] must understand is that [first] this move doesn’t change that support, and [second] they just handed the right a gift.”
Anthony Marco, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council, said the NDP could consider his membership card “revoked.”
“While I cannot predict [the labour council’s] continued relationship with the party, I can say they voted to support Sarah!” he posted to X.
This is a deeply troubling & massively dangerous move – <a href=”https://twitter.com/SarahJama_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SarahJama_</a> is a necessary & strongly supported voice – what my party the <a href=”https://twitter.com/OntarioNDP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@OntarioNDP</a> must understand is that 1st this move doesn’t change that support – and 2nd they just handed the right a gift. A sad sad day. <a href=”https://t.co/ix9ZblEu4l”>https://t.co/ix9ZblEu4l</a>
Deanna Allain, chair of Hamilton’s women and gender equity committee, said it was “absolutely shameful” to see Jama kicked out of caucus.
“Politicians who continue to choose to stay silent, know you’ll be campaigning without a lot of the support that got you those seats in the first place,” she wrote on X.
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