‘Sarah Jama is a ‘photo op’ for NDP’: Diversity expert weighs in after Hamilton MPP is removed from Ontario caucus

'Governments and institutions in Canada are trying to use their weight to silence us,' Jama warned after her removal

A GTA-based Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert is calling out the Ontario NDP leadership after Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama was removed from the caucus Monday morning while Ford's PCs also voted to censure Jama in the House.

Jama, who went through a volatile few weeks after posting a controversial statement on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, was kicked out of caucus by Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles with support from fellow party MPPs in the province.

DEI expert Dr. Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui is calling Jama’s removal to be a “convenient” move for the Ontario NDP who backed her for bringing “new energy” and “new representation” to the party earlier in March this year during election.

“Let’s not forget Sarah Jama is a racialized woman who is also a part of the disability community. She has been excluded from a space that is already historically not so inclusive,” Dr. Ghaffar-Siddiqui told Yahoo News Canada.

“A lot of people for the first time felt represented because of her. Her removal is going to create a distrust among people in government practice.”

Dr. Ghaffar-Siddiqui shared with Yahoo News Canada that as a DEI specialist she is not surprised by Stiles’ decision.

“What we’ve found in our research is that groups, communities, companies and organizations bring on the people who ‘check boxes’ so to speak. People from racialized, disabled, LGBTQ communities who make for positive publicity and support among the general public.”

Sarah Jama was a ‘photo op’ for NDP. She likely checked all the boxes for the party during election in March 2023 and now since she doesn’t fit the party narrative on the Israel-Palestine situation she has been conveniently removed.Dr. Ghaffar-Siddiqui, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert

Race and ethnicity had nothing to do with Jama's ouster, expert says

On the contrary, Nelson Wiseman, an expert on Canadian government and politics, said the issue had more to do with if Sarah Jama was able to successfully carry out the job her party expected of her.

“There is discrimination only in one sense here. She won't be able to represent the people who elected her. That is all. However, that did not happen because of her ethnicity or the colour of her skin. It’s about what the job demands and on this occasion it required for all the members to come forward as one,” Wiseman shared with Yahoo News Canada.

They are keeping her from voting/speaking in the legislature. That’s where the discrimination is. The NDP voted against that and rightly so.Nelson Wiseman, Political Science Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Dr. Ghaffar-Siddiqui maintained prejudice may have played a role against Sarah Jama before she was ousted from NDP’s Ontario caucus in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

“There is discrimination happening, there's a bias in play here. There's clearly some sort of political pressure being applied by Israeli lobby groups.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, who welcomed Marit Stiles’ definitive action, rejected any suggestions of lobbying or pressurizsing the government at any level.

“The insinuation that “Israel lobby groups” are exerting pressure is a dark one, and we urge all Canadians not to allow anti-Semitic rhetoric and tropes to be given space to fester. MPP Jama’s comments have been painful to the Jewish community and, as such, many Jewish organizations and community members have raised their voices to oppose her and to call on political leaders to make it clear that anti-Semitism must never be tolerated Canadian politics,” CIJA Vice President Jamie-Kirzner Roberts told Yahoo News Canada.

Jama’s removal from the Ontario NDP caucus comes after she threatened to sue Premier Doug Ford if he failed to respond to her demands stated in a cease-and-desist letter, which also accused him of defamation over the controversial comments made by Jama two weeks ago.

Many Canadians saw that as a power move and raised questions over Stiles’ control as the party leader in Ontario. S, following which came the latest development on Monday this week that too had social media users were divided on Jama’s ouster and Stiles’ decision:

While the news of Stiles ejected Jama from the Ontario NDP caucus circulated online, the Hamilton MPP posted a thread on X, accusing the Canadian government of “silencing” leaders like her.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims expressed their disappointment at Jama being expelled from the caucus and told Yahoo News Canada that they “are in touch with MPP Stiles' office and are very concerned about the decision. We will have more to say about this soon.”