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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on the Speaker of the legislature to reverse a decision to ban the traditional keffiyeh scarf – long a symbol of the pro-Palestinian protest movement – from the building, saying the prohibition is divisive.

In a brief statement Wednesday evening, Mr. Ford called on Speaker Ted Arnott to change course.

“The decision to ban 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,” Mr. Ford’s statement said.

“I call on the Speaker to reverse his decision immediately.”

NDP Leader Marit Stiles and Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie also say they want the decision reversed.

The legislature prohibits political symbols or statements on apparel worn in the building, but allows cultural symbols to be worn. Mr. Arnott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a letter to Mr. Arnott, Ms. Stiles said it has come to her attention that legislative security has recently begun prohibiting the wearing of keffiyehs in the legislative precinct by members, staff and the public.

“I want to express my disappointment in this development and urge you to reconsider the directive,” Ms. Stiles says in the April 12 letter.

She said the assembly has always permitted members to “openly celebrate their culture,” including by wearing traditional clothing.

Ms. Stiles said the keffiyeh is a significant traditional clothing item not only for Palestinians, but for many members of the Arab and Muslim communities. She said members of her staff have been asked to remove their keffiyehs in order to come to work.

“This is unacceptable,” she said, adding that the scarf is permitted in the House of Commons and other provincial legislatures.

In a statement to the Toronto Star on Wednesday, Mr. Arnott said that after extensive research, he concluded that the wearing of keffiyehs at the present time in the assembly “is intended to be a political statement.”

“So, as Speaker, I cannot authorize the wearing of keffiyehs based on our long-standing conventions,” he wrote to the Star.

Ms. Crombie, the Liberal Leader, said Ontario has a wide variety of people. “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,” she posted on X.

Independent MPP Sarah Jama, a former NDP member who was removed from caucus after an outcry over her statements about Israel, condemned the Speaker’s decision in a social-media post.

Ms. Jama, who has worn a keffiyeh in the legislature, wrote on X that the decision is “unsurprising, but nonetheless concerning, in a country with an ongoing legacy of colonialism.”

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