Ontario Progressive Conservatives are set to introduce a censure motion against Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama in connection with a statement on the Israeli-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.
Housing Minister Paul Calandra says his motion would give the Speaker permission not to recognize Jama in the house until she apologizes for remarks she recently made.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that Conservatives are feeling very passionate about this and that it will see a very large, almost unanimous vote of support from the Conservative caucus,” Calandra told reporters Monday.
He went on to compare the swiftness of the action to a similar motion unanimously passed last year authorizing the Speaker to bar eastern Ontario independent Randy Hillier from participating in the chamber.
It called on Hillier to apologize for what Calandra called racist and discriminatory statements about federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
“It’s a bit different in that Mr. Hillier was asked to apologize to Minister Alghabra in a fashion that the Speaker was was happy with to ensure that it was a sincere apology,” Calandra said.
“In this instance, we are calling on Ms. Jama to apologize to the legislature.”
The matter is expected to be debated at Queen’s Park sometime this week.
Last week, Jama released a statement on social media, under Ontario NDP letterhead, calling for a ceasefire in the troubled region and describing the situation in the Gaza Strip as “apartheid.”
It came days after Hamas launched a bloody and unprecedented attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip. The group, which the Canadian government has designated a terrorist organization, has controlled the territory since 2007.
In her original statement, Jama said: “We have seen this definition of apartheid in real time through the continued violation of human rights in Gaza through the use of white phosphorus chemicals, the withholding of access to food, fuel electric and water, and the destruction of the only exit from Gaza that isn’t controlled by the State of Israel.”
Ontario Liberal Leader John Fraser and Premier Doug Ford both called for Jama to be removed from caucus. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a prominent Holocaust education group, made the same demand.
Provincial NDP Leader Marit Styles ordered the Hamilton Centre MPP to withdraw the statement, saying it was not approved by the party and does not align with the party’s values.
Both Stiles and Jama released statements confirming Jama would continue to sit with the Ontario NDP caucus at Queen’s Park.
“I heard many voices yesterday raising concerns about my post. I hear them — and above all, I understand the pain that many Jewish and Israeli Canadians, including my own constituents, must be feeling,” Jama wrote.
Styles acknowledged the “personal impact” recent events have had on Jama and suggested the MPP as someone with Palestinian family members “is not alone in this experience.”
Jama was not in the legislature Monday. Stiles revealed that the Hamilton politician is taking time to cope with events in the Middle East.
– with files from Isaac Callan
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