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What to know about Sarah Jama’s censure and ejection from NDP


Ontario MPP Sarah Jama is facing significant consequences for a statement she made on social media about the Israel-Gaza war.

Within a one-hour span on Monday, she was both censured by the Ford government and ejected from the NDP caucus after refusing to apologize for and delete comments that many called offensive and antisemitic.

Here’s what you need to know about what happened:

What caused this?

Two days after militant group Hamas stormed towns near the Gaza Strip, killing thousands and taking hundreds hostage, the Hamilton-Centre MPP made a statement on X (formerly Twitter) in which she expressed support for the Palestinian people and called for an end to the “occupation of Palestinian land.” The statement omitted any mention of Hamas or the attack that spurred the latest round of violence in the region.

It’s important to note that Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.

After discussions with NDP Leader Marit Stiles, Jama eventually posted an apology on social media about 24 hours later that condemned Hamas. But this wasn’t enough for the Progressive Conservative government, who put forward a motion the next week to censure her for the remarks.

What is a censure?

A censure is essentially a formal statement of disapproval. In the case of Jama, the PCs attached a condition that will prevent the Speaker from recognizing her in the House until she makes a verbal apology and deletes her original social media post–which Jama has since pinned to the top of her profile.

The censure motion calls Jama’s comments “antisemitic” and “discriminatory.”

“It's very rare,” Michael Kempa, associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, told CTV News Toronto.

“Typically, legislators do it and vote in favor of it where they feel that comments are very dangerous to the public interest, not the parliamentary interest.”

CTV News political analyst Scott Reid said it’s even more unusual for there to be consequences that would see Jama’s ability to speak on behalf of her constituents in the legislature forfeit.

“That's unusual. That's atypical. And I think that's really where the controversy in this case enters.”

The NDP voted against the censure and the Liberals abstained.

Has it happened before?

Former Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier was censured by the Doug Ford government in 2021 over his opposition to public health measures and the spreading of misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

His censure did not include a caveat that he not be recognized by the Speaker, however, a separate motion in 2022 included this condition after Hillier made racist and discriminatory statements about a federal minister.

Can Jama still do her job?

“It's a double whammy in the sense that she's no longer going to be recognized in the legislature by the Speaker because of the censure motion, but she's also losing her privileges that arise from being a member of the official opposition caucus,” Reid said.

Jama will still be able to continue working behind the scenes. She will be able to vote on legislation, participate in committees, and do constituency work. If she wishes to say something in the House, she can try to get someone else to speak on her behalf–although this will be more challenging as an Independent MPP.

This means Jama will become a less visible representative and will likely be unable to voice the concerns of her constituents in the legislature.

What does this mean for the NDP?

Over the last week Stiles has supported Jama’s right to be heard, saying that while she has made it clear that her party condemned the Hamas attacks, she has tried to “understand the personal impact that this is having on her as someone with Palestinian family members.”

However, the NDP Leader changed her tune on Monday after Jama, without communicating her intentions to the party, threatened the premier with legal action and made a speech in the House about the “Israeli apartheid” and the “ongoing domination and occupation of Palestinian lands.”

Officials also told CTV News Toronto that staff worked with Jama on a statement, at her request, to be read in the legislature. However, they say that statement differed from what Jama read publicly.

Stiles told reporters Thursday that Jama’s constituency and Queen’s Park office has received threats, creating an unsafe work environment.

“Marit Stiles and the NDP should have known what they had on their hands, they did not have somebody that was going to work with them constructively and not have somebody that was going to in any way, shape or form, edit or alter, or tone down her point of view,” Reid said.

“It's within the rights of the leader to sanction her, but the leader should have sanctioned her two weeks ago because this was a very predictable outcome.”

Jama is threatening legal action against Ford. Why?

On Oct. 19, as the House was still debating her censure, Jama served the premier a cease-and-desist letter asking that he retract and apologize for what she is calling “defamatory” remarks that accuse her of having a history of antisemitism.

The libel claim argues that a social media post that alleges she supports “the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people” has been harmful to her reputation.

Politicians are protected from libel and slander for anything they say within the House in the public interest, Kempa said. However, if it is printed or spoken outside of the legislature, an individual can take legal action if they believe the statements are false.

What happens next with the legal action?

“Once she's able to establish that threshold, everything then shifts to the defendant, who in this case would be the premier, who has some defenses available to them to basically protect themselves and assert their free speech rights,” Kempa said.

Ford has already said he will not be complying with the cease-and-desist letter, saying through a lawyer that is a “regrettable attempt to curtail the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

“If your client chooses to commence a legal action against Premier Ford, such an action will be defended vigorously,” a letter sent to Jama’s legal representation says.

Kempa said the premier would have to demonstrate that Jama does have a history of antisemitic statements, but could also argue that falls under fair comment.

“If a court deems that quite a few people would share the opinion of the premier (based on the track record of statements), that would be a legitimate defense,” he said. “However, Ms. Jama could then say, even if a reasonable person may conclude that, the premier could (nevertheless) have been motivated by malice, this could be, for example, a political maneuver, basically take out an inconvenient MPP or cause political damage to the NDP.”

“The onus would then shift to Ms. Jama to prove that malice.”

What does this all mean for the people of Hamilton-Centre?

Jama was elected during a byelection in March 2023 after former NDP Leader Andrea Horwath resigned. She won with 54 per cent of the vote.

Reid says that Hamilton-Centre residents will have to take a serious look at how effectively Jama can represent them in the legislature.

“What if we have just, mundane basic, got to engage with the provincial government concerns?” he asked. “Can we get that done working through this representative? The answer to all those questions, there's probably no you can't rely on her much.”

According to Reid, the only reason why Jama was elected is because she ran under the NDP banner.

“She would not have won if she had run as an independent,” he said.

During her election campaign, she was criticized for her pro-Palestinian views, with Jewish organizations calling her a “radical anti-Israel advocate.”

Jama will now sit in the legislature as an independent. Top Stories

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