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Ontario NDP kicks Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama from caucus after controversial Gaza comments

Sarah Jama, Hamilton Centre's member of provincial parliament, has been kicked out of the NDP caucus. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Sarah Jama, Hamilton Centre's member of provincial parliament, has been kicked out of the NDP caucus.

Photo:  (Bobby Hristova/CBC)


Party leader Marit Stiles says Jama's actions since her comments have 'broken the trust' of colleagues

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.

In response, Ford's lawyer said the premier denies the accusations, will not remove his post and is prepared to vigorously defend himself if Jama does pursue legal action.

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.

The Progressive Conservatives voted on Monday to censure Jama in the House. That means she is banned from speaking in the chamber until she retracts and deletes her original statement and formally apologizes.

In Stiles's statement that announced Jama's removal from caucus, she said the Ontario NDP would 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.

'I hope even more of you will speak out': Jama

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 (new window).

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.

Hamilton MPP Jama responds to Ford government's motion to censure her

Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama responds to a motion from Premier Doug Ford's government to bar her from being recognized at Queen Park after after she voiced support for the people of Gaza.

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.

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.

Equity Network, an anti-racism advocacy group based in Hamilton, defended Jama in a statement to CBC Hamilton.

"This is a grave injustice that the Ontario NDP has used anti-Black racism and Islamophobic tropes stating Ms. Jama is creating an 'unsafe' work environment within the party.

In truth, the statement adds, the Ontario NDP are the ones who have created and perpetuated a violently unsafe environment for a Black Muslim disabled revolutionary woman.

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.

Samantha Beattie (new window)Bobby Hristova (new window) · CBC News