Ontario legislature keffiyeh ban loosened, but not overturned

  • Canadian Press

TORONTO — The Speaker of Ontario’s legislature says politicians, staff and visitors will be allowed to enter the building while wearing a keffiyeh, but he is upholding his ban on the scarf inside the legislative chamber.

Sarah Jama, who sits as an independent after being booted from the NDP caucus last year, put on a keffiyeh as question period started today, in defiance of the ban, and was asked to leave.

Members of the NDP caucus, Joel Harden and Kristyn Wong−Tam, also put on scarves and left in solidarity with Jama.

A keffiyeh is a checkered scarf typically worn in Arab cultures that has come to symbolize solidarity with Palestinians, and Speaker Ted Arnott says he concluded that it is being worn to make an overt political statement, which is against the rules of the legislature.

Arnott says since his initial ruling the issue has become politicized and fostered division, so before the start of question period today he says the ban will not apply to people entering the legislative precinct, only within the chamber.

Arnott noted that if a member asks for and receives unanimous consent to wear a keffiyeh in the legislature from all members of provincial parliament, it will be allowed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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