Canada Cuts Funding for Palestinian Refugees Amid Crisis

Montreal, June 27, 2023 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) welcomes the renewal of Canada’s funding to Palestinian refugees for the next four years, but is disappointed that the latest pledge represents a cut of $5 million annually. CJPME urges Canada to increase its funding to meet the needs of the current humanitarian and human rights crisis, and to complement its financial support with political support for UNRWA and Palestinian refugees on the international stage.

“75 years after the Nakba and the creation of the world’s longest-running refugee crisis, it is time for Canada to finally commit to supporting Palestinian refugees,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. The Palestine refugee crisis began in 1948, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled during the creation of Israel. “Canada must bolster its funding to meet the needs of the current moment, and put its political support behind the rights of Palestinian refugees – including their fundamental right to return to their homes,” added Bueckert.

The Canadian government announced on Monday that it was pledging up to $100 million over the next four years to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides services to 5.9 million Palestine refugees. Compared to its $90 million funding commitment over the previous three-year period, this amounts to a cut of $5 million per year, or $20 million in total. Meanwhile, UNRWA faces a chronic crisis of underfunding which poses an imminent threat to its ability to provide services.

CJPME remains concerned that despite its financial support to UNRWA, Canada has failed to provide political support for the agency or the rights of Palestinian refugees. Earlier this year, Canada boycotted the first-ever UN event commemorating the Palestinian Nakba and the creation of the refugee problem. Starting in 2011 under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has abstained every year on a resolution to renew UNRWA’s mandate at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and has voted “No” on another motion supporting the activities of UNRWA. According to internal documents obtained by CJPME, Global Affairs Canada has long determined such resolutions to be consistent with Canada’s foreign policy and thus deemed worthy of support.

CJPME also notes that Canada’s pledge of $25 million per year is similar to the value of weapons that Canada has exported to Israel over the past three years, which has ranged from $20 million to $27 million. CJPME has long warned about the possible human rights risk that these weapons will be used against Palestinians under occupation, including refugees. Last week, two Palestinian children who were students in UNRWA schools were killed by Israeli forces in the Jenin refugee camp. Last month, many Palestinian refugees were killed during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, including several students in UNRWA schools.