Sarah Jama
Sarah Jama

TORONTO: Three provincial lawmakers from Canada’s Ontario province were asked to leave the legislative chamber on Monday for donning keffiyehs.

The lawmakers were told to leave the chamber shortly after Ontario speaker Ted Arnott said the keffiyeh can be worn in the assembly building but not in its legislative chamber.

As question period started on Monday, independent lawmaker Sarah Jama put on a keffiyeh in defiance of the ban and was asked to leave. After that, New Democratic Party (NDP) lawmakers Joel Harden and Kristyn Wong-Tam also put on keffiyehs and left in solidarity with Jama.

Jama, Wong-Tam, and Harden said they disagreed with the ban.

Wong-Tam said as long as the ban stays in effect, she and her colleagues will take all necessary action to ensure that it is reversed, adding that they will remain respectful and peaceful in the process.

Keffiyehs are traditional Arab headdresses with a history spanning millennia. They have also emerged as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, becoming more visible at pro-Palestinian rallies amid Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Arnott made the remarks during question period in an attempt to clarify his previous ruling that banned the black-and-white scarves at the assembly building. Arnott said, “There is no blanket ban which singles out only the keffiyeh”.

The speaker added that for decades, it has been standard practice to ask those who seek to enter the assembly “not to wear any attire which appears to be intended to make a political statement of any sort”.

“This is intended to promote order and decorum and mostly has had the desired effect through the years,” added Arnott.

“I wish to clarify that members, staff and visitors wearing the keffiyeh will be permitted entry to the legislative precinct. However, in line with my previous statements in the House, the keffiyeh is not permitted to be worn in the chamber or the galleries at this time without the unanimous consent of the House,” the speaker said.

Arnott said following a complaint he had ruled the keffiyeh a political symbol and therefore not allowed to be worn in the legislative chamber.

Since the ban came into effect, the New Democratic Party has tried to introduce a unanimous consent motion twice to overturn the ban. It failed both times.

The ban can be overturned after unanimous consent from members of the provincial legislature.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Budget and politics
Updated 14 Jun, 2024

Budget and politics

PML-N, scared of taking bold steps lest it loses whatever little public support it has, has left its traditional support — traders — virtually untouched.
New talks?
14 Jun, 2024

New talks?

WILL this prove another false start, or may we expect a more sincere effort this time? Reference is made to the...
A non-starter
14 Jun, 2024

A non-starter

WHILE the UN Security Council had earlier this week adopted a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza...
Budget for stabilisation
Updated 13 Jun, 2024

Budget for stabilisation

The proposed steps lack any “disruptive policy changes", especially to "right-size" the govt, and doubts remain on authorities' ability to enforce new measures.
State of the economy
13 Jun, 2024

State of the economy

THE current fiscal year is but another year lost. Going by the new Pakistan Economic Survey, which maps the state of...
Unyielding onslaught
Updated 13 Jun, 2024

Unyielding onslaught

SEVEN soldiers paid the ultimate price in Lakki Marwat on Sunday when their vehicle was blown up in an IED attack,...