Ontario MPP reopens office as an independent, vows to fight her censure

Click to play video: 'MPP Sarah Jama threatens to sue Premier Doug Ford over Israel-Hamas comments'
MPP Sarah Jama threatens to sue Premier Doug Ford over Israel-Hamas comments
NDP MPP Sarah Jama is threatening to serve Premier Doug Ford with a libel lawsuit over public statements she said depicted her as having a 'history of antisemitism.' Global News' Queen's Park Bureau Chief Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello reports – Oct 19, 2023

Ontario MPP Sarah Jama is proceeding with legal action against her Oct. 23 censure in the provincial legislature, she declared amid a crowd of supporters at her office reopening Tuesday morning.

Jama’s lawyers intend to file a notice of application for a judicial review on Wednesday, a process by which courts discern if the decisions of administrative bodies are fair and lawful.

“I have no intention of just sitting there censured,” Jama said to the crowd made up of Hamilton Centre residents and other supporters, some displaying a Palestinian flag behind her.

Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama reopens her constituency office after shutting down amidst death threats following her comments on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Rukhsar Ali

“We are not of the mindset that the censure was legal, to censure somebody indefinitely using censure protocol for something that was said outside of the house on social media,” she explained to reporters.

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Fighting the censure

On Oct. 23, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government voted in favour of a censure motion that both formally disapproved of Jama’s statements and called on the speaker to not recognize her until a formal apology is made and her original statement is deleted on social media.

At the opening, Jama said she would not apologize for her comments or take down her post.

“The thing that was controversial was that I said something too early about people dying, let’s be honest,” she said.

MPP Sarah Jama is flanked by supporters in front of her revamped constituency office as an independent. Rukhsar Ali / Global News

In an Oct. 10 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Jama called for an immediate ceasefire and to “end all occupation of Palestinian land and end apartheid,” as defined by UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk whose report is cited in the statement.

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Jama’s comments did not mention Hamas or the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel which killed at least 1,400 people. However, she did condemn Hamas about 24 hours later on X and apologized.

In response to the initial post, Premier Doug Ford issued a statement claiming “Jama has a long and well-documented history of antisemitism,” adding that the Hamilton Centre MPP supports “the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people” even though her statement did not say that.

“I don’t think there is anything controversial for calling for a ceasefire,” Jama said. “This conflict needs to end and there is nothing wrong with my statement or what I put out.”

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Jama said the premier’s comments were the basis for the censure, and because his comments were not factual, her lawyers have a case for a judicial review that may overturn it.

A new beginning for Independent MPP Jama

Jama’s reopening welcomed Hamilton Centre residents to the revamped office, greeting visitors with a mural newly painted by local artist Sahra Soudi in the Pan-African colours of red, black and green.

The office had initially shut down due to numerous death threats directed at Jama and her office after her statements on the conflict.

Visitors to Jama’s office are welcomed by a mural painted by local artist Sahra Soudi. Rukhsar Ali

The death threats pushed two staffers to leave their positions, Jama said.

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Jama also said she has not heard from Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles since she was removed from caucus but that there may be room for a possible return if a conversation was initiated.

For now, after re-hiring and newly decorating the space, Jama said the office is open to constituents and she’s focused on getting back to work representing Hamilton Centre.

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with constituents and doing what I can to support people here,” Jama said.

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