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Sarah Jama poses for a portrait at her home in Hamilton, Ont., on March 13, 2018.Peter Power/The Canadian Press

The Ontario NDP’s decision to expel an MPP from its caucus after she made statements about the Israel-Hamas war is creating tensions within the party, and has prompted some riding association officials, party activists and former MPPs to turn on provincial NDP Leader Marit Stiles.

The party announced last Monday that it was kicking out the member, Sarah Jama, who remains an MPP for Hamilton-Centre. In statements on social media and the floor of the provincial legislature in the weeks since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Ms. Jama has called for an end to “all occupation on Palestinian land” and an end to “apartheid” in Israel.

NDP MPP Jill Andrew, who represents Toronto-St. Paul’s, made a post on social media expressing disagreement with Ms. Jama’s ejection. Ms. Andrew would not answer subsequent questions from reporters, including a question about whether she still supports Ms. Stiles.

Her riding association executive issued a statement Friday criticizing the party leadership and saying silencing Ms. Jama, who like Ms. Andrew is Black, “follows the history of Black women being disparaged, disrespected, and unprotected.”

The executive in Ms. Jama’s now-former riding association has also issued a statement. It calls her expulsion an attack on democracy and demands a leadership review of Ms. Stiles. The NDP riding association in Kitchener-Centre, where a by-election is imminent to replace NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo, has also called for Ms. Stiles to go. And the party’s riding association in Toronto’s Beaches-East York chimed in with a statement criticizing Ms. Jama’s ejection.

In Scarborough-Rouge Park, the NDP’s riding association president has quit in protest. And several hundred disaffected supporters tuned in to an online forum on Friday to rally against Ms. Jama’s ouster.

The political infighting, amid the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip, has put Ms. Stiles on the defensive with some on the left flank of her party, who say Ms. Jama was wrongly purged for her views and that the NDP has not been strident enough in its support for Palestinians.

Ms. Stiles has said it was Ms. Jama’s “unilateral” moves to release statements, despite agreeing to work with the Leader and her team, that made it impossible for the MPP to remain in caucus – not her views on the Middle East.

The NDP Leader has repeatedly decried Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, and the thousands of civilians killed in the subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza. She has reiterated the federal NDP’s call for a ceasefire.

Ms. Jama, who was first elected earlier this year, signed on to carry the NDP banner in the seat vacated by former Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Even before the start of the war, she had already attracted controversy for her opinions on the Palestinian struggle.

Then, on Oct. 10, just three days after Hamas militants stormed into Israel, she posted a statement on social media, which did not condemn the attack but called Israel an “apartheid” state and demanded a ceasefire. While she later added an apology and a condemnation of the Hamas attack, she put the original statement at the top of her feed on the social media site X, despite a demand from Ms. Stiles that it be removed.

Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government moved a motion to censure Ms. Jama and deny her the right to speak in the legislature unless she retracted her statement and apologized. Ms. Jama threatened legal action over a social media post Mr. Ford made attacking her comments on the Middle East.

Last Monday, Ms. Jama surprised Ms. Stiles by giving a speech in the legislature the Leader had not seen beforehand. Ms. Jama again condemned Israel as an “apartheid” state for its “collective punishment” of Gazans and said that pro-peace and pro-Palestinian voices were being silenced. She was then ejected from caucus and the PC government used its majority to pass its censure motion. The NDP voted against it.

Meanwhile, in Kitchener-Centre, the NDP candidate in the upcoming by-election, local city councillor Debbie Chapman, says she still supports Ms. Stiles and that her riding executive did not consult her before releasing its letter.

“I am proud to be running to be the provincial voice for the people of Kitchener-Centre, and to do so under the NDP – the only party that has taken a principled stance on the conflict in Israel-Palestine. I stand behind our Leader,” Ms. Chapman said in an e-mail.

Helen Ramirez, interim president of the Kitchener riding association, said the local executive has heard from many in the community who felt their voices were not being heard by the current leadership of the Ontario NDP.

“This is such an affront to us, and what this party has stood for,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Lindo, who quit as the riding’s NDP MPP in January, citing family reasons and the high cost of child care, has also spoken out against the move to expel Ms. Jama.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I do know that people are definitely taking it seriously, definitely unhappy and definitely demanding a different type of leadership,” she said in an interview.

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