Source: Facebook

NDP MPPs walked out in solidarity with Independent MPP Sarah Jama on Monday as they defied the ban on a Palestinian headscarf in the Ontario legislative chamber.

Despite being named and asked to leave the chamber for refusing to remove her banned keffiyeh, Jama was told to leave once again by Speaker Ted Arnott. This time, she was not alone. NDP MPPs Joel Harden and Kristyn Wong-Tam, also wearing their keffiyehs, left in solidarity.

The interaction can be seen in City News reporter Richard Southern’s video on X.

Harden explained why he had defied the ban and stood by Jama wearing a headscarf.

“Today, I defied the keffiyeh ban at Queen’s Park at the request of Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab neighbours,” he said. “We’ll continue to oppose this unjust ban until it is completely lifted.”

Later, Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles left the chamber protesting the ban.

Arnott lifted the ban on keffiyehs for guests and members in the legislative building while maintaining its prohibition in the legislative chamber.

Arnott banned the use of the keffiyeh after “extensive research” and finding that the headscarf has a long history of being used as a symbol of resistance by anti-Israel movements.

He declared the keffiyeh a political symbol and that it was being used as a political prop in the legislature, which goes against long-standing parliamentary conventions.

Arnott said the unfolding events since the ban prove that the keffiyeh is a political symbol and that he was right to ban it as such.

NDP MPP Monique Taylor also put forward a petition for members to vote to lift the ban on Monday.

“This is not a political piece of clothing. This is a cultural and heritage piece of clothing that identifies Palestinian people,” she said. “They want to be able to visit this house and be in the galleries, and members who work here with Palestinian heritage should be allowed to wear the keffiyeh.”

Jama, the member who has consistently worn the keffiyeh, is a Somali Canadian Muslim. Her husband, Amr Abdel-Latif, originally came to Canada as a refugee from Jordan.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles has vowed to force another vote to lift the keffiyeh ban on Monday.

“All party leaders agree – it’s time to end the keffiyeh ban at Queen’s Park.  Now it’s up to the Premier to follow through when the Legislature returns this week,” she said on X. “If he won’t, we will – by forcing a full vote of MPPs. With votes from just 22 PC MPPs, we can make this right.”

Stiles demanded that Premier Doug Ford force his government to vote to overturn the ban.

The keffiyeh has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israel since the Arab Revolt in Palestine in 1936. The two main demands of the armed uprising were an end to Jewish immigration and an end to the British occupation of the region.

The rebellion’s leadership ordered every man to wear the keffiyeh to show solidarity and give cover to the fighters who wore them so the British wouldn’t be able to distinguish combatants from civilians.