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Ford kicks backbencher out of Ontario PC caucus after she met with far-right figure

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford kicked a backbencher out of the Progressive Conservative caucus on Friday after what he called repeated and serious lapses in judgment.

Goldie Ghamari, who represents the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton, recently took a virtual meeting with Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League.

After Ghamari posted on social media about the meeting, the National Council of Canadian Muslims called Robinson an Islamophobe and urged Ford to remove Ghamari from his caucus.

Ford’s office initially said in a written statement that the premier was “extremely disappointed” in Ghamari’s decision to give a platform to someone whose behaviour and beliefs are at odds with those of the government.

Ghamari wrote in a subsequent statement that she condemns all forms of Islamophobia and antisemitism, and that she was not aware of Robinson’s history prior to their meeting.

Ghamari said as an Iranian Canadian immigrant she took the meeting because Robinson wanted to discuss the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was recently listed as a terrorist entity in Canada.

“We discussed #IRGCterrorists, its impact in Canada, and the 6-year effort of the Iranian-Canadian diaspora to put the IRGC on the Canadian terror list,” Ghamari wrote in her social media statement. “I hope that clarifies!”

But the explanation fell flat with Ford, who removed her from caucus Friday.

“This decision follows repeated instances of serious lapses in judgment and a failure to collaborate constructively with caucus leadership and as a team member,” his office wrote in a statement.

“While this decision did not come easily, it has become clear that MPP Ghamari can no longer continue in her role within our caucus.”

Ivana Yelich, a deputy chief of staff for Ford, said that the premier made his decision after seeing the explanation Ghamari offered for the meeting.

“Her subsequent statement claiming she wasn’t aware of Mr. Robinson’s history prior to their meeting speaks volumes about her judgement and honesty,” Yelich wrote.

Ghamari responded Friday on social media by writing, “when one door closes, another one opens,” ending her brief statement with an emoji of a hand holding up the peace sign.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press