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Ontario MPP asked again to leave Ontario legislature over keffiyeh ban


An Ontario MPP was asked again to leave the Ontario legislature on Monday for wearing a keffiyeh, a garment that was banned by the Speaker last month due to its political symbolism.

Sarah Jama was “named” by House Speaker Ted Arnott for donning the black-and-white checkered scarf, which has become synonymous with Palestinian solidarity, meaning she cannot vote on matters before the house for the remainder of the day.

Jama left the legislative chamber, as did NDP MPPs Joel Harden and Kristyn Wong-Tam, who also donned the scarves in solidarity with the Independent representative for Hamilton Centre.

Jama was asked to leave the chamber last month as well for wearing the garment, but refused.

The ban, announced by Arnott last month after he concluded it had come to represent a political statememnt, was loosened prior to question period and Jama’s removal. Now, the Speaker says the ban only applies in the chamber and not throughout Queen’s Park.

“It has been our standard practice, again for many decades, to ask those who seek to enter the [legislative] assembly not to wear any attire which appears to be intended to make a political statement of any sort. This is intended to promote order and decorum and mostly has had the desired effect through the years,” Arnott said Monday.

“But in this case, which unfortunately became politicized, it has instead fostered division and discord both in this House and in our communities in the province."

Speaking to reporters outside of the chamber, Jama said she will continue to wear the garment, despite the ban.

“We’ve decided to wear the keffiyeh today to stand in solidarity with all the Palestinians who have been displaced, about 1.6 million, from their homes,” she said. “Wearing the keffiyeh, especially in the midst of the keffiyeh ban being reversed in the rest of this building, shows that there was no merit to this ban in the first place.”

Leaders of all four political parties, including Premier Doug Ford, have called for the ban’s reversal and the NDP has tried twice to get unanimous consent to allow members to wear the scarf, both of which were unsuccessful due to a handful of dissenting Progressive Conservative members.

On Monday, NDP Leader Marit Stiles called on Ford to “do what’s right” and put the matter to a formal vote. If that request fails, Stiles said her party would hold what’s known as an Opposition Day motion next week, which could pass with a simple majority. Top Stories

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