Trudeau Liberals re-start funding to UNRWA, contrary to prime minister's remarks

Since 2019, the Trudeau Liberals gave Palestinian aid agency UNRWA $90 million. The so-called suspension of funding followed news that 12 UNRWA employees played a part in the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Trudeau Liberals re-start funding to UNRWA, contrary to prime minister's remarks
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick and X/@realmonsanto
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Conflicting media reports suggested Canada would restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to confirm or deny that is the case.

“We know how important it is to get aid into Gaza to help families, innocent civilians. The people who have been devastated by the past two months are starving, facing instability and uncertainty. We know we need to continue to be there for them,” Trudeau said on Thursday.

“We’re not making any announcements today,” he clarified.

A media report by CBC News claimed Ottawa would resume funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinians.

As disclosed by a senior government official, Canada's international development minister is anticipated to announce supplementary funding alongside the scheduled $25 million payment in April.

However, Trudeau told reporters they have yet to make a decision, but at such time, would preface said decision on protecting civilian lives.

In under 24 hours, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen clarified his government would continue to fund the controversial organization.

This decision comes after the federal government temporarily stopped funding in January following revelations that 12 UNRWA employees played a part in the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The agency promptly terminated their employment on January 26.

Trudeau acknowledged the “serious allegations” backed by audio recordings of the employees admitting their involvement.

However, Hussen made the announcement upon reviewing the interim UN report into the allegations, claiming to not have taken this decision lightly.

“Canada is committed to ensuring full accountability, decisive action and the implementation of necessary reforms within UNRWA,” Hussen penned in a statement on Friday. “Canada will work with fellow donors, the UN and UNRWA to ensure that the recommendations stemming from both the OIOS investigation, and the independent review are fully implemented,” he added.

“Canada expects UNRWA to meet its obligations and uphold the UN’s value of neutrality: this is an essential component of UNRWA’s mandate.”

Before the allegations surfaced, the federal government committed $100 million to support the health and education needs of 5.9 million Palestinian refugees over a four-year period. Since 2019, the Trudeau Liberals provided UNRWA with $90 million to service Palestinians abroad.

With Friday's announcement, Ottawa intends to send $100,000 to the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization for supplies including food and blankets for displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Canadian military will also send 300 cargo parachutes to help with airdrops of critical supplies.

Canada has not missed a payment since announcing the pause in funding in January. Its payment of $25 million for this year isn’t due until next month.

But two Liberal MPs want the federal government to cut ties with the organization once and for all.

“Given its history, we believe the UNRWA lacks sufficient governance and internal controls to ensure that humanitarian aid delivered by Canada will be reliably delivered to those who actually need it and that there is a serious risk funds will be misappropriated by Hamas,” MPs Anthony Housefather and Marco Mendicino wrote in a joint statement on Thursday. 

While they remain open to sending aid to Gaza by other avenues, reiterating earlier remarks by their colleague Hussen. 

“The independent investigation reports into UNRWA have yet to be released. Consequently, serious questions remain as to UNRWA’s ability to reform its structure,” they said.

In addition, the MPs raised grave concerns about sanctioned UNRWA employees who facilitated terrorist activity and used anti-Semitic materials in educational textbooks. A UN WATCH report identified 133 UNRWA educators and staff who previously promoted terror indoctrination at the agency.

“This misconduct has contributed to the spread of violence, disinformation and hate,” reads the statement.

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, said Global Affairs Canada. UNRWA said it implemented significant measures to prevent infiltration by armed groups.

Ottawa claimed last fall that no foreign aid went into the hands of "nefarious actors" in Gaza. Yet, for months, Parliamentarians are divided on how best to send aid to Gaza.

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

But Concerns of a widening divide complicated matters 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.

Zahid has long argued against the UNRWA funding pause, urging Canada to restore funding immediately.

“We should never have suspended funding in the first place. I have been pushing for its restoration from day 1. There is no time for delay. Children in Gaza are dying of hunger and malnutrition. Funding must be restored immediately,” she posted to X, formerly Twitter.

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