Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

MPP Sarah Jama in a 2018 portrait taken in her home. Jama apologized Wednesday for a statement she released on social media that called for an end to 'all occupation on Palestinian land' and to end 'apartheid' in Israel.Peter Power/The Canadian Press

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan is denouncing a prominent Ontario union and its leader for issuing social media statements that he says glorify violence and promote antisemitic conspiracy theories in the wake of deadly attacks by Hamas on Israel.

Meanwhile, an Ontario New Democrat apologized Wednesday to Jewish and Israeli Canadians after making a statement about the conflict that her own party leader asked her to withdraw – even though it remains online.

Mr. O’Regan weighed into the controversy on Wednesday over comments made by the Canadian Union for Public Employees in Ontario and its president, Fred Hahn. In a statement the day after the attacks, Mr. Hahn celebrated “resistance around the globe,” and CUPE Ontario later blamed criticism of his comments on “trolls” from the “pro-Israel lobby.”

“I stand with the many labour leaders calling Hamas’ attacks out for what they are: terrorism. The loss of civilian life is not a cause for celebration. Not in Canada. Not anywhere,” Mr. O’Regan said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

“I am profoundly disappointed to see CUPE Ontario double down on this glorification of violence, and now resort to the spreading of antisemitic conspiracy theories. This is not a reflection of Canada’s labour movement, and we cannot let it take away from the outpouring of support union leaders have expressed for Israel.”

A spokesperson for CUPE Ontario did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Mr. O’Regan’s remarks. Earlier Wednesday in a social media post, Mr. Hahn wrote that “for anyone to imagine that I would ever endorse violence is horrific to me.”

Mr. Hahn, whose CUPE Ontario represents almost 300,000 workers, said in one social media post on Sunday, the day after Hamas’s initial attack, that he was thankful for “the power of resistance around the globe.”

In the post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Hahn added that “resistance is fruitful and no matter what some might say, resistance brings progress.” He also shared an image on Instagram that contained the text, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a phrase associated with calls for the destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, MPP Sarah Jama apologized Wednesday for a statement she released on social media that called for an end to “all occupation on Palestinian land” and to end “apartheid” in Israel. Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles called on her to retract the statement a day earlier, which Ms. Jama did not do.

“I understand the pain that many Jewish and Israeli Canadians, including my own constituents, must be feeling. I apologize,” Ms. Jama said in a statement on Wednesday.

“To be clear, I unequivocally condemn terrorism by Hamas on thousands of Israeli civilians. I also believe that Israel’s bombardment and siege on civilians in Gaza, as was also noted by the United Nations, is wrong.”

The statement also said she stands by the position of the federal NDP, which condemns violence against civilians and states that there is no military solution to the conflict.

Both Premier Doug Ford and interim Liberal leader John Fraser called on Ms. Jama to be removed from caucus, as did prominent Jewish groups. In her own statement, Ms. Stiles said Ms. Jama’s initial comments did not “unequivocally decry the violence against Israelis by Hamas and it caused harm to Jewish people who are feeling pain and fear right now.” She said it did not reflect the party’s position on the war and was sent without approval.

The Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on social media called Ms. Jama’s apology “far too little, and far too late,” and reiterated its call for her to be removed.

CUPE Local 3906, which represents teaching assistants, post-doctoral fellows and sessional faculty at McMaster University in Hamilton, also drew criticism over the weekend for a social media post. The union local posted a message, since deleted, that said, “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance,” and included a quote from Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani.

Follow related authors and topics

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

Interact with The Globe