Poilievre pledges to slash UNRWA funding amid investigation into October 7 attacks

Canada suspended 'any additional funding' to UNRWA amid scathing allegations against 12 staff members in connection with the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. Tory leader Pierre Poilievre accused the prime minister of sending money to 'foreign terrorists and dictators.'

Poilievre pledges to slash UNRWA funding amid investigation into October 7 attacks
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Ottawa has temporarily ceased funding to a UN agency supposedly involved in acts of terror against Israel. However, the Official Opposition leader says that this action doesn’t go far enough.

Tory leader Pierre Poilievre plans to "cut back" funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) if elected prime minister after its director terminated staff suspected of playing a role in the October 7 Hamas attack.

On Friday, Canada joined the United States in suspending "any additional funding" to UNRWA amid scathing allegations against 12 staff members. The UNRWA director did not disclose their alleged role on October 7 but an investigation is ongoing.

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen urged the UN agency to take decisive action against staff involved in the attacks that left nearly 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals dead.

"Canada is taking these reports extremely seriously and is engaging closely with UNRWA and other donors on this issue," he said late Friday afternoon. But Hussein maintained his commitment to aid displaced Palestinians through other avenues. 

During a Sunday address to caucus members, Poilievre said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be "ashamed" for funding UNRWA at the expense of taxpayers.

He went so far as to accuse the prime minister of sending money to "foreign terrorists and dictators, calling it aid."

Parliamentarians have been divided over Canada’s response to the Israel-Hamas war after Tel Aviv led a retaliatory bombing and military ground campaign in northern Gaza. Regional health authorities suggest the more than 26,000 Palestinians killed in recent months are predominantly women and children.

Last November, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly praised UNRWA as "the only organization able to concretely" help Palestinians. 

The Trudeau Liberals claimed last fall that no foreign aid went into the hands of "nefarious actors" in Gaza.

Global Affairs Canada said they took precautions against the misappropriation of millions by terrorist groups but did not explain.

Before Friday’s announcement, the federal government committed $100 million to support the health and education needs of 5.9 million Palestinian refugees over a four-year period.

Canada's funding for UNRWA also went to "identify, monitor and follow up on neutrality violations" within the organization and to maintain transparency on its humanitarian mandate, says the federal department.  

However, a UN WATCH report identified 133 UNRWA educators and staff who previously promoted hate and violence on social media, suggesting anti-Semitism and terror indoctrination is systemic at the agency.

"We warned what would happen if you gave money to UNRWA," reiterated Poilievre. "We [need to] cut the funds," he said.

Opposed to the Tory leader on cuts to aid is Heather McPherson, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, who embarked on a week-long crusade to the Middle East earlier this month in solidarity with Palestinian refugees.

"Investigations must proceed, but this punishes the starving people of Gaza who need a ceasefire and for whom UNRWA is one of their only sources of help," she said. "This region is in chaos and Canada needs to play a role, working with our allies." 

Last December, a split within the Liberal caucus emerged after the party backed a UN resolution demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. 

Concerns of a split emerged after 22 Liberal MPs signed a letter spearheaded by MP Salma Zahid to demand a ceasefire last October. The ensuing pressure pushed for a ceasefire vote at the UN General Assembly last December, after Muslim donors ceased their support for the Liberal Party.

Ottawa would later release a joint statement with Australia and New Zealand that clearly laid out its position on the war.

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