NDP MPP Sarah Jama threatens Doug Ford with libel lawsuit over Israel-Hamas statement

The Premier accused Sarah Jama of anti-semitism after she wrote a social media post following the Hamas attack, her lawyer is giving Ford 7 days to retract it and apologize or she will file a libel suit.

An Ontario NDP MPP is threatening to sue Premier Doug Ford after he made a public statement that she claims has tarnished her reputation.

Sarah Jama, the MPP for Hamilton Centre, has given Ford seven days to “formally retract the posts and publicly apologize” or risk facing a libel lawsuit.

The cease and desist from Jama’s lawyer references Ford’s Oct. 11 statement where he said she “has a long and well documented history of antisemitism.”

“We demand that you formally retract the posts and publicly apologize within the next seven calendar days,” reads the letter from her lawyer, Stephen Ellis with the Legal Centre for Palestine. “Failing which Ms. Jama has instructed us to escalate matters further, which may include, without limitation, issuing a statement of claim against you personally.”

Ford’s office has not responded to Jama’s letter.

Demand Jama by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said he supported Ford’s comments.

“Not only do I agree with the premier, but thousands of other people have agreed with it,” Calandra said.

“If Ms. Jama has an issue with that, then she can come into her place here and speak as opposed to hiding somewhere else.”

The Ford government introduced a motion this week that could lead to the rookie MPP being censured in the legislature if she does not apologize for a controversial statement she made on the Israel-Hamas war. Jama came under fire after she posted the two-paragraph statement on social media in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel.

Her post made no mention of the surprise attack by Hamas militants and instead focused on the decades-long struggle of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, which she referred to as “apartheid.”

A number of provincial politicians including Ford, Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser and NDP Leader Marit Stiles, who said the post was not approved by her caucus, asked Jama to retract the comments. Several Jewish groups strongly condemned the post.

The rookie MPP apologized in a reply to her original post where she attempted to clarify her original remarks by saying she “unequivocally condemns terrorism by Hamas on thousands of Israeli civilians.”

The original statement remains up on her X account. She has since pinned the post so it stays visible at the top of her account.

The Ford government introduced a motion on Tuesday that calls for Jama to apologize in the legislature. MPPs began debating the motion this week, it could lead to Jama being banned from speaking in the chamber if she does not apologize.

The debate will likely continue into next week. The Progressive Conservatives have a majority so it will likely pass, but House Speaker Paul Calandra would not necessarily be bound to follow it, and could exercise his discretion to still allow Jama to speak.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Wednesday that actions such as the Tories calling for Jama’s censure have real life consequences in the form of hatred directed at Muslims.

“We cannot use this horrific conflict where so much pain and trauma is being felt by everyone to score political points,” Uthman Quick, the group’s director of communications, said at a press conference. 

Stiles has accused the Ford government of playing politics and called the motion a distraction tactic to take focus off the RCMP’s criminal investigation into the Greenbelt scandal.

Jama won a provincial byelection earlier this year, claiming the seat that was previously held by longtime former NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Her campaign garnered controversy and criticism from Jewish organizations at that time due to some of her previous associations and remarks.

During her campaign, Jama said the criticism stemmed from her standing up for Palestinian human rights and her association with student groups. She publicly denounced anti-Semitism during a debate leading up to the by-election.

With files from The Canadian Press

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