Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama was elected as the new face for the provincial riding of Hamilton Centre on Thursday.
Jama secured 54 per cent of the vote, defeating nine other candidates by a landslide. She was also the predicted winner amongst many Canadians.
She will be the newest member to join Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles’ team, to which Stiles has responded, “I am incredibly proud of Sarah Jama, and so excited to welcome her to Queen’s Park as your Hamilton Centre MPP.”
“Hamilton Centre has a long history of hard-working, progressive representation, and Sarah has been a dedicated, tenacious part of that work for a long time. She’s a leader who understands the power of solidarity to win more for people and build stronger, more caring communities. Together, we will make a difference in peoples’ lives,” Stiles said..
The position in Hamilton Centre was previously held by former party leader Andrea Horwath who occupied the seat since 2004 and consistently won in the polls. In June 2022, she stepped down as MPP after the party lost in the provincial election. Horwath then went on to become Hamilton’s mayor after winning the municipal election in Oct. last year.
On Thursday, Horwath took to Twitter to congratulate the newest NDP member.
Following her win, the 28-year-old thanked her supporters and team for their hard work. She said they knocked on almost 10,000 doors throughout the city. She went on to say this victory serves as a clear message of who constituents want representing them at Queen’s Park.
“It is very clear that Hamilton Centre wants somebody who’s going to take on Doug Ford and his plans to privatize our health-care system,” Jama said, adding that “Hamilton Centre wants someone who’s going to make sure we’re fighting to create affordable cities.”
Jama is recognized in the community for being an outspoken activist in housing, disability rights, and social issues such as people experiencing homelessness, poverty and the Black Lives Matter movement.
She is the co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario as well as the Hamilton Encampment Support Network. Additionally, she is a founding board member of the Hamilton Transit Riders’ Union and is a member of several other local, provincial and national initiatives.
PAST CONTROVERSY RESURFACES
Though Jama has been admired by many for her advocacy work, she has also been under fire recently for comments she made in the past.
In 2021, a video clip from a pro-Palestinian protest circulated online, capturing the politician spewing anti-Semitic remarks. In the clip, Jama calls Israel an “illegitimate” country and also accuses Hamilton police of “protecting Nazism” because they “target Black Muslims and Palestinians.”
Numerous Jewish organizations criticized these comments, including the Hamilton Jewish Federation and B’nai Brith Canada who considers Jama a “radical anti-Israel advocate.”
In a statement on Thursday, Jama acknowledged the remarks and said, “These issues are complex and my poor choice of words in the video that has been circulating has not helped. I apologize for my comments which have been harmful. This was never my intention, but I recognize the impact.”
However, the damage was done and could not be reversed for B’nai Brith Canada Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn.
“Jama’s first attempt at an apology is not at a level acceptable to @bnaibrithcanada or Ontarians in general. Her apology appears to inherently deny her pattern of radical behaviours and solely on the aforementioned video,” Mostyn tweeted on Thursday.
Meanwhile, other organizations, such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Independent Jewish Voices, have acknowledged Jama’s apology.
“IVJ Canada congratulates Sarah Jama on her landslide victory in the Hamilton Centre provincial by-election last night. We’re thrilled to have another voice for social justice and Palestinian human rights at Queen’s Park,” Independent Jewish Voices said in a statement released on Friday.
GOALS AS HAMILTON CENTRE MPP
Jama intends on following the steps of her predecessor, Horwath, when it comes to representing the working-class and those who feel marginalized in provincial politics. She plans on continuing her activist duties while balancing the functions of her new role.
“There isn’t a moment to waste at Queen’s Park,” she said in a statement. “The Ontario NDP are in an important fight for improved access to public health care, stronger protections for renters, and the need for more affordable, accessible communities. I’m ready to get to work. Let’s do this.”