Canada’s redirection of Gaza aid funding may violate ICJ orders on genocide

Montreal, February 2, 2024 — One week after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found plausible evidence of genocide in Gaza, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) urges International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen to immediately reverse his decision to redirect aid funding away from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees. CJPME stresses that Canada’s additional $40m in humanitarian aid to Gaza does not compensate for the extraordinary harm that defunding UNRWA will cause, with the UN warning that such actions may cause the collapse of the humanitarian system. CJPME warns that Canada’s defunding of UNRWA may directly violate ICJ’s orders to increase humanitarian aid and prevent genocide.

“Canada’s reckless redirection of humanitarian aid away from UNRWA risks pushing the population of Gaza further into famine and genocide,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. “Canada’s continued suspension of UNRWA funding must be viewed as an act of defiance against the explicit warnings from the UN and humanitarian sector that such actions will directly increase human suffering.”

UNRWA is the primary aid organization in Gaza, and the only organization with the capacity and infrastructure to administer aid at scale. Two million people rely on its services as a lifeline. Its work cannot be replaced by the other organizations that Canada has chosen to fund. An urgent appeal from the heads of UN humanitarian agencies warns that “withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region.” Similarly, humanitarian groups warn that the “suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians.” UNRWA says that if the funding is not resumed, its operations in the region could shut down by the end of the month.

CJPME reiterates the fact that the allegations against UNRWA are yet unproven and reportedly do not implicate the organization itself. “Suspending funding to this irreplaceable organization based on the unproven Israeli allegations against a few employees is completely disproportionate and irresponsible, amounting to a cruel act of collective punishment. This ‘pause’ is not a responsible administrative move, but a kneejerk political reaction that puts the lives of millions of people in jeopardy,” added Bueckert.

Today marks one week since the ICJ concluded that Israeli-imposed conditions of life in Gaza, including the deprivation of food and water, could plausibly amount to acts of genocide. The court ordered that Israel “must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” CJPME argues that if the warnings of UN agencies come true, Canada’s actions will have contributed to the worsening of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, directly violating the ICJ’s orders to prevent genocide. Palestinian human rights NGOs and the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention warn that suspending funding to UNRWA may directly implicate Canada in acts of genocide.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact Michael Bueckert, VP CJPME, 613-315-7947
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

The whole or parts of this press release can be reproduced without permission.

– 30 –