Keffiyeh scarves banned in Ontario legislature by Speaker, unanimous consent motion to allow them fails

A unanimous consent motion to allow keffiyeh scarves in the Ontario legislature failed Thursday after Speaker of the House Ted Arnott banned the wearing of the traditional Palestinian scarves.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles introduced a motion Thursday, but there was at least one “No” heard from the PC side, so it did not pass.

In a statement Wednesday night, Premier Doug Ford called for the reversal of the decision, saying the ban of the keffiyeh was made “by the speaker and the speaker alone.”

“I do not support his decision as it needlessly divides the people of our province. I call on the speaker to reverse his decision immediately,” read Ford’s statement.

Arnott doubled down Thursday, saying he believed he made the right decision.

“It’s extremely politically sensitive, obviously. But procedurally, I believe I’ve made the right decision in the sense of past rulings of speakers, precedents and traditions. And in my opinion, having done the research, it appeared to me that the keffiyeh is being worn to make a political statement,” said Arnott.

He added he doesn’t believe the move was divisive. “I don’t believe that I’ve done anything to create the division … I believe that following through on the traditions of the house, established rulings that have been made by many speakers.”


A keffiyeh is a black and white checkered scarf that has come to symbolize solidarity with Palestinians. Keffiyehs could regularly be spotted in the crowds of pro-Palestinian rallies in Toronto over the last several months.

Under the order, keffiyehs would be banned in the legislative precinct by Members, staff and the public.

Among the MPPs who agreed with the Speaker’s decision were Lisa MacLeod and Robin Martin, both from the PC Party.

Stiles had expressed her disappointment in the development in a letter to the Speaker and urged him to reconsider the directive.

“The wearing of these important cultural and national clothing items in our Assembly is something we should be proud of. It is part of the story of who we are as a province,” read Stiles’ letter. “Palestinians are part of that story, and the keffiyeh is a traditional clothing item that is significant not only to them but to many members of Arab and Muslim communities.”

Premier Ford did not directly say whether his caucus would be supporting the motion by the NDP on Thursday, but he did say they will “bring it to the legislature and hopefully the Speaker will change his mind.”

He added he just wanted everyone to live in peace in Ontario.

“We see the division. It’s not healthy … Why divide the community even more than it’s already divided. So I just speak my mind. It doesn’t matter on what side … I just want everyone to live in peace in Ontario. That is absolutely critical,” said Ford.

He added the Speaker controls the rules and controls the legislature as a whole.

Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie also spoke out against the ban in a post on X and urged Arnott to reconsider. “Here in Ontario we are home to a diverse group of people from so many backgrounds. This is a time when leaders should be looking for ways to bring people together, not to further divide us.”

Independent MPP Sarah Jama has spoken out against the ban as well, releasing a statement on X, saying it was unsurprising, but nonetheless concerning.

She added history shows and will continue to show that attempts to ban cultural identity and cultural symbols only strengthens movements of resistance.

Jama was censured by the Ontario legislature and removed from the NDP after a controversial social media post about the Israel-Hamas war last year.

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