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Ontario court dismisses MPP Sarah Jama's request for review of censure

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An Ontario court has dismissed a request by MPP Sarah Jama for a judicial review of her censure from the legislature.

The May 23 decision found the courts have “no jurisdiction to review matters that fall within parliamentary privilege, including review under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“The law is well-settled,” the decision says.

“As a matter of the constitutional separation of powers, those matters are within the exclusive purview of the Legislative Assembly.”

Jama was censured by the Doug Ford government in October over social media comments about the Israel-Gaza war. While a censure is typically a formal statement of disapproval, the government motion attached a condition that prevents the Speaker from recognizing her in the House until a formal apology is made.

Experts have called the motion “very rare,” as it prevents Jama from speaking publicly in the legislature on behalf of her constituents.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Hamilton-Centre MPP reiterated that she will not apologize for her comments, in which expressed support for the Palestinian people and called for an end to the “occupation of Palestinian land.”

“With this disappointing decision the court is essentially stating that the Ontario Legislature can, with impunity, censor an elected opposition member with whom it disagrees,” Jama wrote.

“As I consider whether I have the energy and resources to appeal this decision, I continue to ask my fellow MPPs to do the right thing and vote to end my censure, if not because they have come to agree with my statements, then at least because they recognize that in a democratic country, I must have the right to make them.”

The Ontario Superior Court decision to dismiss the case focused solely on whether a judicial review is within its purview.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said he is happy with the court’s decision, and that the government has “vigorously defended the important role of Parliament in our system of democracy.”

“This is the second time in recent years the courts have unequivocally upheld the supremacy of Parliament and I am very pleased with the outcome.”

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