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Ontario NDP sets ultimatum for legislature keffiyeh ban, threatening to defy rules

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles is promising to escalate her party’s attempts to overturn a ban on wearing the keffiyeh inside Queen’s Park when legislators return at the beginning of May.

In a video posted to social media, Stiles said that if Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not push to overturn a ban on the Arab headdress, she and her entire caucus would defy the rules.

Speaker Ted Arnott banned the keffiyeh, a black and white checkered scarf typically worn in Arab cultures and often used to symbolize solidarity with Palestinians, this spring.

Arnott decided it was a “political statement” and therefore violated the strict rules that stop MPPs from using props or clothing to send a message while sitting inside the house.

Click to play video: 'Global News at 5:30 Toronto: April 23, 2024'

Global News at 5:30 Toronto: April 23, 2024

Ford and Stiles, along with the Greens and Liberals, have said they oppose the ban. Some members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, however, have moved against the premier to maintain a probation on the keffiyeh.

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After initially trying, and failing, to get his MPPs to follow his lead on the premier allowed them to vote freely on the issue. Justifying his decision to reporters, Ford said the issue was a “very sensitive topic” for members of his caucus.

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Stiles said in her video she is giving Ford an ultimatum: work out how to reverse the ban by May 6 when members return to Queen’s Park or face a protest from the opposition benches.

“We decided to give the government until May 6 to reverse this unjust rule or expect us and the community to defy the ban,” Stiles said. “Doug Ford it’s time for you to do the right thing. It’s time to reverse the keffiyeh ban and it’s time for us to come together as one community and fight anti-Palestinian racism, hate and division.”

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Stiles did not explain in the video exactly how the party would defy the ban. The NDP did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Ford’s office said his previous comments on the ban — which he has called “divisive” — still stand.

The keffiyeh has been a key point of tension at Queen’s Park since Ford and other party leaders voiced their opposition to the Speaker’s ban in mid-April.

Independent MPP Sarah Jama refused to leave the chamber and was forbidden from voting or taking part in committees for the day on Thursday after she defied the ban by wearing the clothing item.

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A demonstration on the issue also took place outside Ford’s Etobicoke office on Friday.

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