Canadian funding to UNRWA had been stopped under former PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative gov’t in 2010, after examples of how the corrupted UN agency was linked to Gaza-based Hamas, deemed a terrorist group by Canada.
Canada will provide $25 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, it was announced Wednesday, restoring government support for the agency that had been frozen over alleged ties to the Islamist militant group Hamas.
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government was granting the agency $20 million to support education, health, social services and immediate humaitarian assistance for millions of Palestinians, and an additional $5 million in response an appeal for assistance for those refugees impacted by the crisis in Syria.
“Millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East have the right to receive basic services such as health care and to send their children to school,” Bibeau said in a statement.
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“We want to see Palestinian refugee children in classrooms where they can learn universal values of tolerance and respect. Vulnerable Palestinians deserve all the opportunities they can to contribute positively to their communities and Canada’s funding will help to better the lives of millions of refugees.”
A proportion of Canadian funding will also be used to train UNRWA staff on the proper and neutral use of social media, the government said.
Canadian funding to UNRWA had been cut off under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative governmnet in 2010, with allegations that the agency was linked closely to Gaza-based Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist group. The former government instead delivered aid through direct funding pledges to the Palestinian Authority
Canadian opposition lawmakers criticized the reinstatement of support for the agency.
“I’m horrified,” CBC news quotes Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent, who said there is ample evidence that “massive amounts” of aid directed to the agency has been used to support Palistinian military efforts against Israel.
“We have abundant evidence that UNRWA is part of the problem,” he said.
The government said the agency would be held accountable to “enhanced due diligence” and a “very robust oversight and reporting framework” that includes “regular site visits and strong anti-terrorism provisions.”
Chair of Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs David Cape said that while the organization respects the need to deliver humanitarian aid to the region, it had “serious reservations” about the UNRWA’s accountability and neutrality.
“Hamas is notorious for diverting funds and materials provided by the international community intended for humanitarian aid to terrorist purposes,” Cape said in a statement, according to CBC.
“We have communicated our concerns about UNRWA’s accountability and neutrality to the government, and we appreciate both the government’s acknowledgement of these concerns and the measures Canada has now put into place to ensure meaningful accountability and oversight.”
The UNRWA is the only UN agency mandated to provide services to Palestinian refugees.
In a report released earlier this year, the UNRWA said it was expecting a major funding shortfall, with $473 million still required for providing displaced refugees in Gaza with assistance in renting and repairing homes damaged during the 2014 summer conflict with Israel.
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