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Canada to restore funding to UNRWA in the Gaza Strip

Photo: Justin Tang The Canadian Press The Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, indicates that he has taken into account an interim report from the UN on the situation, as well as the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the territory.

Mia Rabson – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

8:31 p.m.

  • Canada

The federal government announced that Canada would resume funding the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.

Canada was one of 16 countries to suspend future payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) after Israel alleged in January that a dozen of its workers participated in the bloody Hamas attack on October 7.

Canadian government to pay $25 million to UNRWA in April; this was the first scheduled payment since the decision to freeze support for the organization.

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said he had reviewed an interim UN report on the allegations and the decision was made in light of that information and the humanitarian situation catastrophic.

“UNRWA constitutes the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza and the region,” he said. Other humanitarian agencies rely on UNRWA networks to help get aid where it is most needed, he added.

Delivering humanitarian aid to the millions of Palestinians living in desperate conditions remains a dire problem, and aid groups are warning of mass starvation if this does not change soon.

Mr. Hussen was in Egypt in February and visited the Rafah border crossing where he said trucks full of humanitarian supplies had been stuck for weeks, unable to enter the territory.

Canadians need to have confidence in government-supported organizations, Hussen said, but he provided no details on what has been done to restore that confidence.

“We were reassured by the content of this interim report,” he said, without providing details on the content of the report. But beyond that, we have been reassured by the number of processes and measures that UNRWA itself has undertaken, as well as the reforms introduced under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General. »

Israel has long accused UNRWA of being a “haven for the radical ideology of Hamas” and of using its medical and educational programs to incite anti-Semitism. UNRWA officials say they have received no evidence to support these claims. The organization's website says it has investigated allegations against 66 of its 30,000 employees in Gaza and elsewhere, including their links to Hamas.

UNRWA effectively fired the 12 accused employees appointed by Israel. The organization also says it conducts checks of all its employees twice a year against the UN Security Council's Consolidated Sanctions List.

Mr. Hussen's announcement was initially expected on Wednesday, but a planned press conference was abruptly canceled, without explanation, amid media reports that UNRWA funding was about to resume.

The government later denied this information, saying it had not yet made a final decision. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not commit to restoring funding when asked about it on Thursday, and Hussen did not explain why the announcement was delayed.

Disastrous consequences

UNRWA is the main provider of social and humanitarian assistance in the territory, particularly in health care and education. It depends almost exclusively on donations from UN member countries. Twelve of its 15 biggest donors, including Canada, hit the pause button after the allegations came to light.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, pleaded for the restoration of all funding earlier this week, warning UN delegates of dire consequences if that did not happen.

Pro-Palestinian advocacy group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East expressed relief at Canada's decision Friday and urged the government to do more, quickly.

“This turnaround must be accompanied by a massive injection of additional aid to UNRWA,” the group said in a statement.

Canada has provided $100 million in aid to Gaza since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, including $40 million in new aid to several agencies – including the World Food Program and UNICEF – in the week that followed the freezing of support to UNRWA.

Ottawa says it will also send $100,000 to the Hashemite Charity Organization of Jordan for supplies, including food and blankets, to be delivered to the territory. The Canadian military will also provide approximately 300 equipment parachutes to the Royal Jordanian Air Force to assist in airdrops of essential supplies into Gaza.

Ottawa sued ?

B'nai Brith Canada said earlier this week it was “outraged” that funding would be restored and a lawyer for the Center for Jewish and Israel Relations (CIJA) said Friday it plans to sue the government in court for what the agency considers an “unreasonable” decision.

As General Counsel (of CIJA), “let me be clear: we plan to challenge this decision in court,” Richard Marceau said on social media.< /p>

The CIJA announced only an hour after the announcement its intention to take Ottawa's decision to court. On X (formerly Twitter), the organization described it as “unreasonable”.

Meanwhile, tensions within the Liberal caucus remained visible.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather and former Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino wrote an open letter to the government on Thursday urging it not to restore funding to UNRWA.

The agency lacks the governance and internal controls necessary to ensure that aid does not end up in the hands of Hamas, they wrote.

Canada's decision to resume funding is “premature and involves the serious risk that Canadian resources could be diverted by Hamas, which would be devastating for Israelis and Palestinians,” Mendicino said Friday.

Ottawa should have waited for the final reports on UNRWA before making a decision, he added.

Friday's decision appears to make Canada the second government to resume funding so far. The European Commission agreed last week to send 60 percent of its planned funding, retaining the remaining sum pending further action by the agency to investigate its employees and to keep Hamas militants out of its ranks.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116