OCASI Calls On Speaker To Lift Ban On Keffiyehs




Toronto / May 6, 2024 - OCASI stands in solidarity with civil society organizations and leaders of all political parties in the Ontario Legislature including the Premier of Ontario by calling on the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reverse his decision to ban wearing Keffiyehs inside the Parliament’s Chamber.

We are encouraged that the Speaker has slightly relaxed the original prohibition, now applying it only to the legislative chamber rather than the entire building. But the ban must be removed entirely.

The ban on wearing the Keffiyeh would be seen as a step toward sustaining laws that discriminate against members based on their culture, religion or faith - laws that do not adhere to promoting our core Canadian values of diversity, inclusion and are based on arbitrary rules that do not apply equitably. Furthermore, to ban the wearing of the Keffiyeh on the basis that it is an “overt political statement” assumes an artificial distinction or separation between what is “cultural”, “religious” and “political” where in reality those elements are inextricably interwoven in one’s identity and worldview.

Everyone has the right to self-expression, including through their clothing choices, without fear of discrimination or persecution. The right to self-expression and equality are not rights that stand alone, rather, they are tied to our highest law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. We urge the Speaker to move away from requiring the unanimous consent of MPPs to lift the Keffiyeh Ban, and adhere to the unanimous request made by all political parties in the legislature that the ban be lifted immediately. In refusing to do so, the speaker is setting a precedent by “exercising his powers in a profoundly anti-democratic way”, and creating space to silence those who express any difference of opinion or appearance.

At a time where our country is experiencing a significant rise of racism, anti-Palestinian hate, and anti-Semitism, the Keffiyeh ban further divides us. For many generations, Canada has welcomed migrants and refugees globally fleeing oppressive regimes where their freedom of expression and rights have been violated, so that they may build new lives and live together in peace. Thus, an arbitrary application of the law by banning the wearing of Keffiyehs is undemocratic and questions our global humanitarian leadership.

OCASI is the umbrella organization for the immigrant and refugee-serving sector in Ontario, and is committed to a vision of a country of equity and social justice where everyone belongs.