Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Pierre Poilievre vowed on Sunday to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA.
Michel Saba – The Canadian Press in Ottawa
The Liberals, the Bloc and the New Democrats were in turn outraged Monday that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called a United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees a “terrorist organization.”
Mr. Poilievre's comments are “irresponsible and reckless,” said International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen in a press scrum upon his arrival at the House of Commons.
The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, judged that the terms used by Mr. Poilievre are “totally absurd” and his counterpart from the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh, spoke of “extremist” and “irresponsible” comments.
A few minutes later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly attacked the Conservative leader during question period, emphasizing in broad strokes that his MP Leslyn Lewis, seated “three seats to his left”, shared a meal ” with a German far-right conservative politician” and “wants to abolish the United Nations.”
“Is the abolition of the United Nations now the official position of the Conservative Party of Canada ?,” he sent in a response. And although The Canadian Press subsequently asked the Conservatives this question, they had not responded at the time of publication.
- Poilievre would cut funds to UNWRA
During a speech to his MPs on Sunday, Mr. Poilievre promised to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known under the name UNRWA.
He then declared that the Prime Minister “should be ashamed of the way he spent our money to finance this terrorist organization.”
The agency is in turmoil after some of its employees — 12 according to the United States — were suspected of being involved in the Hamas attack on Israel last October. These employees were fired, but several countries, including Canada, recently suspended funding to the United Nations (UN) agency.
As UNRWA investigates these incidents, Canada says it is taking the “cautious” approach of working with other humanitarian organizations, including the World Health Organization, the world food, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, to provide aid to the Palestinians.
However, this is not the right approach, in the opinion of the Bloc and the NDP, who believe that UNRWA is the only organization capable of providing large-scale aid at this time to this largely in need.
Mr. Blanchet insisted that the UN is still “the best tool” at Canada’s disposal. He denounced “an imbalance between the fault observed and the sanction put forward”.
“There is a credible, recognized organization that is not perfect. But let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he summarized.
Same story with the New Democrat leader who judges that Canada is “punishing a desperate population, who needs food, medicine”.
UNRWA, with nearly 13,000 personnel still trying to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip, is the main agency providing aid to the people of Gaza amid the humanitarian disaster caused by the Israeli offensive.
The war began when Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages on October 7. In retaliation, Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip which, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, killed more than 26,000 people, including members of the group.