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Canada Restores Funding for UN Agency Despite Alleged Links to Hamas Massacre

Ottawa has announced that it will reinstate funding for the UN agency that provides support to Palestinians, following its suspension due to allegations that some staff members were involved in the Hamas October massacre.

Global Affairs Canada made the announcement on March 8, citing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza as the reason for the decision.

Canada was the first G7 country to provide assistance to Gaza after the October 7 incident where Hamas commandos attacked Israel, resulting in casualties and kidnappings.

Israel has since been conducting military operations in Gaza to target Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist group in Canada.

In January, the Israeli government reported that 12 UNRWA staff members were allegedly involved in the attack on October 7.

UNRWA responded by terminating the contracts of these workers and initiating an investigation.

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An Israeli document, as reported by Associated Press, alleged that out of the 12 implicated UNRWA workers, nine were teachers and one was a social worker, with seven accused of crossing into Israel. It was also claimed that at least 190 UNRWA employees have ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Following these findings, several countries, including the United States and Canada, announced the suspension of their funding to UNRWA.

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a temporary halt in funding on January 26 to allow UNRWA to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations.

The funding was reinstated prior to the completion of the investigation.

Minister Hussen stated on March 8 that the funding is being reinstated based on the ongoing investigative process and the critical situation in Gaza.

“Canada remains committed to taking the allegations against some UNRWA staff seriously and will work closely with UNRWA and the UN to ensure accountability and reforms,” the minister remarked.

During the funding suspension, Global Affairs Canada confirms that no scheduled payments to UNRWA were missed.

The department emphasizes the importance of continuing Canada’s contribution to prevent the collapse of UNRWA, a vital organization providing support to Palestinians in Gaza and surrounding areas.

Split Reactions

The conflict between Israel and Hamas and its humanitarian consequences for Palestinians have sparked mixed reactions among Canadians, leading to several violent incidents, particularly against the Jewish community.

Responses to the decision to reinstate funding from the Liberal government were divided.

Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada expressed concerns about resuming funding before the conclusion of the investigation.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also reacted similarly, indicating plans to take legal action against the government.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomed the decision, stating that it will help save lives.

“While funding should not have been paused initially, the government made the right call today by renewing and increasing funding,” they noted in a statement. “No other organization can replace UNRWA’s vital role in the humanitarian response in Gaza.”

Although Global Affairs Canada has not announced additional funding for UNRWA, they have confirmed plans to provide significant support to the World Food Programme. Additionally, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation will receive $100,000 to procure supplies for Gazans, some of which will be delivered via airdrops.

To facilitate the aid delivery through airdrops, the Canadian Armed Forces are supplying around 300 cargo parachutes to the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

Other Connections

In addition to the allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in the Hamas attack, the agency has faced other related challenges.

In February, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) uncovered a tunnel network under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters that stretched hundreds of meters. The IDF claims this network served as a Hamas intelligence command center where most combat operations were directed.

UNRWA stated that it was informed by Israel about this tunnel on October 12 and subsequently evacuated the headquarters.

The Canadian government has been aware of issues within UNRWA for some time. In 2021, it acknowledged that UNRWA was circulating anti-Israel education materials, which violated UN guidelines.

Global Affairs Canada had previously stated that UNRWA had taken corrective actions, but this was disputed by B’nai Brith in a report released in September.
Ottawa announced in June 2023 its commitment to provide $100 million to UNRWA over the next four years, following a $90 million contribution from 2019 to 2023.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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