ARPCF Calls for Reversal of Ban on Palestinian Keffiyehs in Legislative Buildings at Queen's Park

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Montreal, Apr 18, 2024 — The Anti-Racism Program of the CJPME Foundation (ARPCF) is deeply alarmed by the recent decision to ban the wearing of Palestinian keffiyehs within the Ontario Legislative Assembly (OLA) at Queen’s Park. This policy, affecting all legislators, staff, and visitors, was confirmed by Speaker Ted Arnott after word of the ban had spread for days online, and has been publicly challenged by leaders across political lines.  Speaker Arnott announced in an email that the keffiyeh is no longer considered non-partisan cultural garb but is an "overt political statement," alleging that such symbols conflict with the legislative decorum.  ARPCF rejects this explanation and urges the keffiyeh ban to be immediately reversed. 

"The decision to ban keffiyehs, essential symbols of Palestinian heritage and identity, based on their perceived political implications, is not only misguided but discriminatory," stated Jamila Ewais, a researcher for the ARPCF. "These cultural symbols, recognized globally and worn broadly across the Arab world, play a significant role in the cultural identity of their wearers and should not be excluded from public spaces." The ARPCF notes that the OLA’s keffiyeh ban reflects a concerning trend in which Palestinian cultural symbols and perspectives have been misinterpreted and inappropriately politicized. The use of vague language such as ‘political connotations’ in order to justify such a ban reflects anti-Palestinian racism (APR), and is an example of double standards that aim to erase and defame pro-Palestinian narratives.

This decision from the speaker has sparked significant controversy, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and leaders from the NDP and Liberal parties voicing disagreement. Premier Ford has publicly called for the immediate reversal of this ban, recognizing that such actions divide rather than unite the people of Ontario. Similarly, NDP Leader Marit Stiles and Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie have also demanded a reversal of this move, highlighting the legislative history of accommodating cultural expressions through attire.

The ARPCF urges the OLA to reverse its policy banning keffiyehs from Queen’s Park. Further, the ARPCF urges the OLA to clarify its stance against the ongoing genocide in Palestine, including cultural genocide, as noted by Independent MPP Sarah Jama.  The ARPCF also applauds this broad spectrum of opposition and urges Speaker Ted Arnott and the OLA to heed these calls by swiftly reversing the ban. Moreover, it is essential for all cultural and religious symbols to be respected within our legislative spaces to promote a truly inclusive and democratic society.

About the ARPCF – The mandate of the Anti-Racism Program of the CJPME Foundation (ARPCF) is to create public awareness about racism in Canada.  This mandate falls in line with the Foundation’s broader purpose of monitoring and combating manifestations of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination by increasing public awareness of such biases.

For more information, please contact Jamila Ewais, 514-389-8668
ARPCF, [email protected]

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  • Jamila Ewais
    published this page in Statements 2024-04-18 14:04:34 -0400