By Saima Harron, November 17 2023—
Two days after Hamas’s terror attack on the state of Israel Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Hamilton Centre Sarah Jama called for a ceasefire. 16 days after the attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a “humanitarian pause”. 19 days after the attack, 120 out of 134 Nation-States voted for an immediate ceasefire during the United Nations General Assembly. 24 days after the attack the entire Federal NDP caucus signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Jama’s statement triggered outrage for firstly, calling for a ceasefire and simultaneously for criticizing the state of Israel. 14 days after Jama’s statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres echoed these claims in an address to the UN Security Council. 22 days after Jama’s statement in a letter to the Prime Minister the Federal NDP Caucus called out the “extremely serious violations of international law”.
On Canadian soil, an elected representative was censured and removed from caucus for being ahead of the world, for speaking too soon, for being wiser than the Prime Minister of Canada (called for a humanitarian pause), her party provincially and federally (called for an immediate ceasefire) and the entire international community (called for an immediate ceasefire). Jama was punished for speaking too soon, for speaking on behalf of those within her constituency who hold these views, as Canadian democracy has established she is their voice.
As reported by Global News, London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler stated: “To be clear, this had nothing to do with the member’s position on Palestine, but rather her insistence on acting independently, unilaterally and with repeated disregard for the Leader and the collective work of our caucus.”
Any defence of innocent civilian life should never be ridiculed, should never be decided on and should never need to be announced as unilateral. Civilian life should be protected and fought for collectively, to reiterate all civilians especially that of the Israeli hostages, Israeli civilians and all civilians in Gaza. The safety of innocent civilian lives should never need to be discussed and agreed upon, it should be the standard within a Canadian political party.
A government where a party member is silenced, censured and removed from caucus for having an opinion is not a government of democracy, but a government of control that is riddled with fear and confusion. It is known that the NDP party in Ontario faced pressure from the public as well as from some party members following Jama’s statements; however, a government that breaks down and immediately silences its members because of an opinion that was yet to be publicly accepted is a government that has failed. It has failed its party members, its constituents and the entirety of the Canadian population.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford publicly stated that Jama has a “long and well-documented history of antisemitism” and “Her views do not represent Ontario. They have no place in this legislature, and they have no place in this province.”
To reiterate: 14 days after Jama’s statement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a “humanitarian pause”. 17 days after Jama’s statement 120 out of 134 Nation-States voted for an immediate ceasefire during the United Nations General Assembly. 22 days after Jama’s statement the entire Federal NDP caucus signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an immediate ceasefire. 14 days after Jama’s statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres echoed these claims in an address to the UN Security Council. 22 days after Jama’s statement in a letter to the Prime Minister the Federal NDP Caucus called out the “extremely serious violations of international law”.
In the days following, hundreds of organizations and individuals called for an immediate ceasefire and echoed Jama’s statements. These organizations and individuals include the UN, Amnesty International, Jewish Voice for Peace, UNICEF, Oxfam International (open petition), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, The Carter Centre, Save the Children, Angelina Jolie, Quebec Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, Liberal MP Salma Zahid, NDP party of Canada, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Artists4Ceasefire, INFID, The Council of Canadians. Hundreds and hundreds should be added to this list. Ford called for Jama’s resignation and censured her after she was removed from the caucus. Her party failed to defend her from Ford’s defamatory remarks.
The issue is not whether you agree with Jama’s statements (or hundreds of individuals and organizations). The issue is the silencing of discourse within a democratic nation. Jama’s views are the views of many Canadians and she represents those Canadians. It is shameful, the acts of the Canadian leaders involved in Jama’s removal from caucus and censure are shameful.
NDP leader Marit Stiles needs to resign for her shameful removal of Jama. As the leader of a democratic Canadian party, Stiles had the duty of viewing the situation holistically and justly, which she failed to do. She called for an immediate ceasefire herself.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.