Hamilton councillor calls political move against MPP Jama ‘a huge step back’


Published October 23, 2023 at 5:06 pm

Hamilton MPP could face censure from Queen's Park over comments on Israel- Palestine conflict
Courtesy: Sarah Jama's X profile.

A Hamilton councillor has slammed the Ontario NDP’s decision to eject Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama from caucus as “incredibly misguided” and “a huge step back.” He also called the Ontario government’s vote to censure Jama today (Oct. 23) “an extreme move” that will silence her and voters in her riding.

Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch said he was “deeply disappointed by the misguided actions” of the provincial New Democrats today (Oct. 23).

Kroetsch wrote a statement on X (formerly Twitter) about the impacts of the Middle East conflict on Ward 2 residents and elected representatives Jama and Sabreina Dahab, a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board Ward 2 trustee and master of arts student at McMaster University. He called both women his friends.

In his post today (Oct. 23), he said the NDP’s move to remove Jama from caucus along with the Ontario government’s vote to censure her has made the situation worse. He noted Jama and Dahab both were “targeted, threatened, and harassed for expressing their views.”

Jama’s original post on the Israel-Hamas war had ignited backlash from many who accused her of being “anti-Semitic” and assailed her for initially failing to mention Hamas’s surprise massacre of civilians on Oct. 7 in Israel.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles had asked her to retract her comments, but Jama’s comments were still pinned as the top post on her X page, including her apology clarifying her remarks and condemning the terrorist attacks.

“This censure will now prevent her from speaking to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on behalf of Hamilton Centre,” he wrote about Jama, the Hamilton Centre MPP. “This will not only limit MPP Jama’s participation, but will essentially strip voters of the right to be represented by her in the Ontario Legislature.”

Kroetsch accused Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his government of attempting to use this move to distract from “the shame and scandal” of his party.

He added that he has revoked his Ontario NDP membership and wrote a letter to the party telling them he won’t support the party again until it reverses its decision.

Despite not feeling it’s his place to weigh in on global issues, he said he wrote the statement in response to some who asked him about his opinion, noting he recognizes that “what’s happening right now transcends issues of jurisdiction or levels of government representation.”

“I also recognize that nothing I say, and no statement I make, will convey the nuance and complexity of this decades long conflict or my own feelings about it,” he said.

Kroetsch emphasized that he stands with everyone, regardless of whether they support Israelis or Palestinians.

“No loss of life is acceptable and none of us should be calling for an escalation to violent conflict.”

He said the situation “deeply saddened” him. “Bloodshed has encouraged bloodshed and there has been a profoundly distubing call by some for Israel to retaliate with as much force as possible.”

He said his “whiteness” has allowed him to be silent up until now and protects him from the vitriol that Jama and Dahab will continue to experience.

Jama has threatened the premier with a libel lawsuit and received some support from the community.

Ward 2 trustee Dahab wrote that when Jama won the election in Hamilton Centre last year, “many people disenfranchised and alienated from these (systems), for once, began to have a sliver of hope that maybe it was worth engaging with these systems.”

She said the political moves against Jama have shattered the hope of Black Muslims and others who wanted change in a system that she said “has always been Islamophobic and anti-Black.”

“That hope is not only shattered but many will never see the walls of voting polls again and that is on the NDP,” she wrote on X today.

Ameil J. Joseph, associate professor with the School of Social Work at McMaster University, wrote on X that it was “gross” that Stiles, the Ontario NDP leader, mentioned Jama’s “actions have contributed to unsafe work environments for staff,”  though Jama herself was the recipient of hate.

Some politicians on X, including in Hamilton, expressed support for Israel immediately after the Oct. 7 surprise attacks by Hamas, considered a terrorist entity in Canada, Israel and many other countries. Most didn’t mention the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on Palestinians and their grievances.

Neil Lumsden, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport, denounced Jama’s comments on Oct. 17. “As many residents have said to me over the last several days, Ms. Jama does not speak for Hamilton. Let’s be clear. Anyone who makes comments attempting to rationalize the barbaric attacks committed by Hamas terrorists in Israel, has no place in the Ontario Legislature.”

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