Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Sarah Jama poses for a portrait at her home in Hamilton, Ont., on March 13, 2018. Jama is threatening legal action against Premier Doug Ford, saying he made “reckless and malicious” comments about her after she released a statement about Palestinian rights after Hamas’s attacks on Israel.Peter Power/The Canadian Press

An Ontario New Democrat is threatening legal action against Premier Doug Ford, saying he made “reckless and malicious” comments about her after she released a statement about Palestinian rights after Hamas’s attacks on Israel.

NDP MPP Sarah Jama, who was elected to the riding of Hamilton Centre in March, sent Mr. Ford a “cease and desist” letter Thursday demanding he retract his Oct. 11 statement about her and publish an “unequivocal apology” within seven days. Ms. Jama’s legal counsel said Mr. Ford’s statement is defamatory and implies she is racist toward Jewish people and sympathetic to terrorism.

“Please understand that tarnishing Ms. Jama’s reputation in such a public manner will not be tolerated under any circumstances,” said the letter from Ms. Jama’s lawyer, Stephen Ellis.

If the Premier does not apologize within a week, “Ms. Jama has instructed us to escalate matters further, which may include, without limitation, issuing a statement of claim against you personally,” the letter said.

The letter notes that Mr. Ford’s Oct. 11 statement said Ms. Jama has “a long and well-documented history of antisemitism,” “hateful views,” and “publicly supported the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people.”

The Premier’s statement was issued in response to a post from Ms. Jama on social media platform X.

The day prior, Ms. Jama called for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation to the violence in the Middle East, focusing on the plight of Palestinians and the “continued violation of human rights in Gaza.” Her social media post did not initially condemn Hamas for its attack on Israelis several days earlier.

“We must look to the solution to this endless cycle of death and destruction: end all occupation of Palestinian land and end apartheid,” Ms. Jama’s statement said.

Mr. Ford, along with several Jewish groups, decried Ms. Jama’s post and urged NDP Leader Marit Stiles to remove her from caucus. Although Ms. Stiles initially called for Ms. Jama to retract the statement, the rookie NDP MPP did not do so. Instead, about 24 hours later, she issued an apology to Jewish and Israeli Canadians, condemned Hamas and said she stood by the position of the federal party, which calls for the release of all hostages, an end to the siege and bombardment of Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to reach civilians. Earlier this week, however, Ms. Jama moved her initial statement to the top of her social media page, highlighting it to the public.

Hamas, Israel and the ‘yes, but’ squad

Ms. Jama, a disability and civic justice advocate, also previously apologized to the Jewish community in March for what she called her “poor choice of words” in a video about Israel.

The Progressive Conservative government has since sought to censure Ms. Jama and prevent her from speaking in the legislature, unless she retracts her statement and apologizes in the House. The motion will be voted upon on Monday.

The legislature also voted Thursday to condemn Hamas and support Israel’s right to defend itself – with the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals voting in favour, while the NDP abstained. The New Democrats had asked for additional language calling for humanitarian aid and an end to the siege in Gaza to be included.

Asked about Ms. Jama’s threat of legal action, Government House Leader Paul Calandra on Thursday said he agreed with Premier’s statements and that Ms. Jama should bring her response to them to the Legislature, where she has been absent while MPPs debate her censure.

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

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Mr. Ford has made “inflammatory accusations” against Ms. Jama.

“This is now a legal matter, and as such cannot comment further, though I will call out this government for repeatedly and cynically fanning the flames of division during such a painful time,” she said in a statement.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser told the Legislature Thursday that his party’s nine members would no longer participate in the debate on the motion to censure Ms. Jama, calling it divisive.

With a report from Jeff Gray in Toronto

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe