‘It’s not what she said, but what she did not say’: Canadians weigh in on MPP Sarah Jama’s stance on Israel, Palestine

Jama called out "the generations long occupation of Palestine" and what she called apartheid and human rights violations in Gaza on Tuesday

‘It’s not what she said, but what she did not say’: Canadians weigh in on MPP Sarah Jama’s stance on Israel, Palestine

MPP for Hamilton Centre Sarah Jama came under fire following her statement on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East with increasing calls from many Canadians demanding her to resign for her stance on the matter.

Sarah Jama, who was elected earlier this year in a byelection in Hamilton Centre, published a written statement Tuesday decrying "the generations long occupation of Palestine" and what she called apartheid and human rights violations in Gaza.

Jama voiced her support for the people of Gaza as part of her post on X, formerly known as Twitter, and the backlash followed soon after.

While Ontario NDP leader Marit Styles called on Jama to take back her statement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford went as far as to call for her resignation saying Jama’s “views do not represent Ontario.”

On social media, Canadians and people from around the world were divided in their reactions to what Jama expressed in her press release.

Many were in complete support of her statement.

But other Canadians are calling for her resignation.

"Sarah Jama MUST be removed," demanded the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada.

A Palestinian PhD candidate said Premier Doug Ford "will be in the dustbin of history" and "Sarah will be forever respected as a trailblazer."

While Jama chose to remain silent over the hours following her post being made public, the calls for her resignation increased and many discussed if the situation was enough grounds for her to step down.

Yahoo News Canada reached out to experts at the University of Toronto to ask if what Sarah Jama said could possibly serve as the basis for her potential dismissal.

"There is no employment law protection. The party has complete authority. It's not an employment situation as the party has privilege and power. There is no firing process either, there is an election," said Director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Relations Professor Rafael Gomez.

"Her MPP status is not affected by what the party does to her, she'll still sit as an Independent."

Professor Gomez also weighed in on the sensitivity of the matter and how timing plays a crucial role when including opinions and messages in political statements.

"It's not what she said, it's about what she did not say. The timing is critical. If this was said a month ago, no one would have batted an eye. But when you say something like that right after what went down over the weekend in Israel, it resonates as you are not denouncing the killing of hundreds of civilians. The statement had to be contextualized and that's, perhaps, what her party members are trying to get through to her," Professor Gomez told Yahoo News Canada.

“While she will have to face the consequences that the party decides. There is a time to discuss the nuance, perhaps, in this case, right after atrocities have been committed wasn’t the best opportunity or at least that’s what it seems from the larger public reaction. What they saw on Saturday was heinous. Period.”

Professor Gomez was quick to draw a contrast between the Sarah Jama situation and another hot story at the moment that involves Air Canada and a pilot.

Air Canada took one of their Montreal-based B787 first officers out of service on Monday after discovering posts that allegedly showed the pilot at a demonstration, holding anti-Israel signs.

The issue left many Canadians divided.

But "unlike the pilot whose fate will be decided by Air Canada, Sarah Jama's position in her seat will be decided by the people of her electorate," Professor Gomez said.

After almost a complete day of silence, the MPP for Hamilton Centre apologized for her choice of words in the post and issued a follow up statement.

"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. As a member of the Ontario NDP caucus,"

"I stand by the position of our federal party, and believe that violence against civilians is never justified, and that there is no military solution to this conflict," Jama posted on X earlier on Wednesday.

Whether Jama will be pressured further to resign or how her electorate sees the latest development remains to be seen, but what’s clear is that the Canada of 2023 remains divided on the Israel-Palestine issue.