Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama Remains Censured After Court Dismissal

Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama Remains Censured After Court Dismissal

Independent MPP Sarah Jama speaks to media at Queen's Park in Toronto. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama will continue to face censure at Queen’s Park following an Ontario court’s dismissal of her application to overturn a Progressive Conservative motion.

A three-justice panel ruled last week that the matter falls under “parliamentary privilege,” which grants elected officials free speech within the Legislative Assembly. The court determined it lacks the authority to intervene in this case.

“With this disappointing decision, the court is essentially stating that the Ontario Legislature can, with impunity, censor an elected opposition member,” Jama said in an emailed statement to CBC Hamilton.

The censure stemmed from an Oct. 10 post on social media platform X, where Jama, then an NDP MPP, called for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestinian land. The post did not mention Hamas’ attack on Israel days prior, which resulted in approximately 1,200 civilian deaths and 250 hostages. Premier Doug Ford condemned the post as anti-Semitic and condoning Hamas’ violence.

Jama apologized but refused to delete the post, leading the PC Party to pass a censorship motion. She has been unable to speak in the Legislative Assembly since but can still vote, participate in committees, and table motions.

Jama and her lawyers appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court in December, arguing the motion was an abuse of power that infringed on her right to engage in political speech as an MPP. The court, however, ruled that Jama, now an Independent MPP, must find a resolution within the Legislative Assembly system.

This ruling is separate from Jama’s threat to sue Ford for defamation. She served him with a cease and desist letter on Oct. 11 regarding his post alleging she has “a long and well-documented history of antisemitism.”

Jama’s lawyer for that case and the Premier’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

The NDP removed Jama from caucus nearly two weeks after her initial post due to her statements on the Israel-Hamas conflict and failure to consult the party beforehand. She has since sat as an Independent.

Most recently, Jama wore a keffiyeh in the legislative chamber, defying a ban by Speaker Ted Arnott. She and two NDP MPPs wearing scarves in solidarity were asked to leave.

A keffiyeh is a checkered scarf commonly worn in Arab cultures, symbolizing solidarity with Palestinians. Arnott ruled earlier this year that wearing it constitutes an overt political statement, violating legislature rules. He stated that a member could wear a keffiyeh with support from all MPPs.

On Tuesday, Jama reaffirmed her original statement, refusing to apologize for advocating for a ceasefire and Palestinian human rights. She is considering appealing the court’s decision and has urged fellow MPPs to vote to end her censure.

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