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Doug Ford calls on Ontario Speaker to reverse Queen's Park keffiyeh ban

Ontario Premier Doug Ford leaves the Queen's Park Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young Ontario Premier Doug Ford leaves the Queen's Park Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on Speaker Ted Arnott to reverse a ban on keffiyehs at Queen's Park, describing the move as “needlessly” divisive.

“The decision to ban the keffiyeh was made by the speaker and the speaker alone. I do not support his decision as it needlessly divides the people of our province,” Ford said in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

Ford called on Arnott to reverse his decision “immediately.”

It is unclear when the members were most recently given direction not to wear the scarves, which are commonly worn by Arabs and serve as a symbol of the Palestinian resistance movement. However, in February, Arnott issued a reminder to members that the use of accessories as political messages is prohibited.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to Arnott's office for further clarity.

The premier's comments follow calls from several other Ontario politicians to reconsider the ban in the building.

Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Marit Stiles said Wednesday that “everyone [in Ontario] should be free to wear whatever piece of clothing proudly reflects their heritage” and that the legislature “should be no different.”

In a letter sent to Arnott on April 12, the Opposition leader said members of her staff have been asked to remove their keffiyehs before coming to work, which she called “unacceptable."

“The wearing of these important cultural and national clothing items in our Assembly is something we should be proud of,” Stiles said. “It is part of the story of who we are as a province. Palestinians are part of that story, and the keffiyeh is a traditional clothing item that is significant not only to them but to many members of Arab and Muslim communities.”

She said when she learned of the ruling, she urged Arnott to reconsider.

Independent MPP Sarah Jama, who has been ejected from the NDP and censured over her comments on the Palestinian resistance movement, also spoke out against the decision. Jama called the move a “forceful suppression of cultural identity.”

“This is unsurprising, but nonetheless concerning, in a country with an ongoing legacy of colonialism,” Jama wrote in a statement shared to social media.

  

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