Canadian Politician Booted for Israel Comments Is Not Backing Down

“This is a question of free speech. I think I have the democratic right to say what I need to say,” Sarah Jama told VICE News in an exclusive interview.
Ontario MPP Sarah Jama in Toronto on Nov. 4 2023. Jama was kicked out of her own party after calling for a ceasefire. (Evy Kwong for VICE News)

TORONTO - As tens of thousands of people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on Saturday Nov. 4, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “ceasefire,” only one politician was given the chance to speak to the crowd.

Thousands in the crowd chanted Sarah Jama’s name as the Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) took the mic near the stage.

“We are here to demand that people like Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden use their powers to push for a ceasefire. And we demand that all leaders around the world push for a ceasefire and end their complicity in Israel’s crimes against humanity,” the 29-year-old said as the crowd cheered her on.


“The Palestinian fight for freedom will always remain until Palestine is free. And because we know this, we are gathered here in the thousands.”

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which killed over 1400 people, Gaza’s health ministry reports that Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes have killed at least 10,000 Palestinians, over 4,000 of them children as of Nov. 6.

On Oct.10, Jama put out a statement  calling for a ceasefire and an end to Israeli occupation and “apartheid.” In response, Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford went after Jama, called her antisemitic and that she “supported the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people” and calling for her resignation. To be clear, Jama’s statement makes absolutely no reference to any “rape or murder” of innocent civilians. A followup statement from Jama said she condemned “terrorism by Hamas on thousands of Israeli civilians.” 

Jama was then inundated with hate letters and death threats. Her own party, the traditionally left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), and its leader Marit Stiles condemned her statement and told her to delete social media posts that mentioned it. Jama didn’t budge, and she threatened to sue Ford for defamation.


Jama also discovered that week that Ford would lead a vote to censure her, which if passed would restrict her from speaking in any legislative sessions until she apologized for her statement. In her defense, she went up to the podium and doubled-down on her calls for a ceasefire. The vote passed 63 to 23 on Oct. 23, with her party voting against the motion.

Later that day, Jama discovered that she had been ousted by the NDP as well.

Stiles maintains that Jama didn’t follow through with what she agreed to do, which included taking down statements posted to her profile on X (formerly known as Twitter.) Stiles also claims that Jama wasn’t removed for her views on “Israel and Gaza” but wished she chose her words “more carefully.”

“Even though I’m democratically elected, I can’t speak in the legislative assembly. I can’t speak or put forward motions until I apologize for my statement, which called Israel an apartheid state,” Jama told VICE News at the protest, in her first interview since her removal. “I don’t plan on apologizing and I plan on operating as an independent.”

“Thousands of people are being killed. It’s not right that people who have access to power are not doing or saying much or not showing up to support when they’re called,” adding that she’ll continue working for her constituents, who happen to be in one of Canada’s top ten ridings with the highest child poverty rate, Hamilton Centre.


Jama also talked about the fight being larger than herself, as workers of all kinds lose their jobs over their pro-Palestinian statements. 

“This is a question of free speech. I think I have the democratic right to say what I need to say supported by the United Nations today,” she said. “There’s also the fact that people who are teachers, doctors, everybody is being penalized for saying anything around Palestinian human rights.”

As Jama spoke with VICE News, groups of people coming back and forth from the protest stopped Jama and sang her praises. A group of young women wearing keffiyehs asked for a selfie with her, and one told her, “You make me so proud to be Somali.”

Ontario MPP Sarah Jama was approached by groups of supporters who were heading to the Pro-Palestine protest that saw tens of thousands of people outside the US Consulate in Toronto on Nov. 4 2023. The MPP also spoke at the rally. (Evy Kwong for VICE News)

An elderly couple also stopped to give Jama a hug, saying they were “so proud of her,” and that they would pray for her to be able to carry on despite being silenced.

One of these protesters include Shireen Salti, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian-Canadian human rights advocate. As Salti cheered on Jama’s speech at the rally, she noticed another Ontario NDP member passing in the crowd.

“I told him, ‘we demand a provincial statement in support of Sarah Jama signed by all of you,’” Salti told VICE News. 

Salti, who has spoken at multiple events in Palestine, grew up in the occupied West Bank watching her grandmother and grandfather’s resistance to their loss of autonomy under Israeli occupation. 


“Never again means never again for anyone. I grew up reading about Anne Frank in Palestine as a preteen,” Salti told VICE News. “The State of Israel is actively invading Gaza by air, land and sea and has taken every inch that is left of Palestinian land. This is 75 years of Israeli settler colonization and 16 years of blockade of the largest district in Palestine.”

Salti also says that Jama represents what many civilians feel across Canada and America as Western governments “turn a blind eye to the atrocities.”

“Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau, President (Joe) Biden, the world sees your direct involvement in all of this and we say Palestinian lives matter, from Ferguson, Turtle Island to Palestine,” Salti said. “How many more children will be killed until you call for an end to the massacres?”

Trudeau has called for a “humanitarian pause” but has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. While Biden’s officials have quietly pushed Israel to pull back from its intense bombing, the U.S. president is pushing for billions in military aid for the country. 


Since the rally, Salti has called Ford’s chief of staff repeatedly, condemning him for calling the Palestinian flag the “Hamas flag.” 

“They dehumanized all of us when they censured Sarah Jama,” Salti said. “I told him to stop being anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab and do something to help our suffering.”

Jama is planning to reopen her office as an independent on Nov. 14, inviting constituents in her riding and elsewhere to learn more about what she’ll continue to push for. 

“We’re still helping people who are being evicted need to access social assistance and doing all that groundwork,” she said. Jama says she’s also working with her lawyers to push for a judicial review of her censure.

“I think it’s really important for those of us with access to any sort of power to be echoing those calls to be supporting people who are grieving the loss of their relatives back home to say enough is enough,” Jama said.

“We need the federal government to be calling for a ceasefire immediately.”

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