UNRWA funding resumption is necessary, but not enough: CJPME

Montreal, March 8, 2024 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is relieved that Canada will finally resume funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, as announced this afternoon. This is a significant policy reversal for the Canadian government, following widespread pushback from civil society. International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen suspended funding to UNRWA over one month ago, without seeing any evidence to back up Israel’s allegations against a few employees. However, CJPME argues that this reversal must be accompanied by a major infusion of additional aid to UNRWA, alongside serious political pressure on Israel to allow humanitarian access and end its genocidal campaign.

“Resuming aid to UNRWA is a much-needed decision, and it would not have been possible without the important advocacy from across civil society,” said Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME. “Minister Hussen’s cancellation of funding was a reckless political decision that never should have been made. Canada’s irresponsible actions threatened to collapse the aid infrastructure in Gaza, putting the lives of millions of people at risk. Canada must significantly increase funding to UNRWA to compensate for the harm its actions have caused to the people of Gaza,” added Woodley.

In today’s announcement, Minister Hussen said that Canada’s scheduled funding for UNRWA for April would go ahead, and announced funding for a Jordanian charity as well as 300 cargo parachutes for humanitarian airdrops. CJPME has argued that Canada’s plans to airdrop aid into Gaza are woefully inadequate and would amount to little more than a publicity stunt. Just today, 5 Palestinians were killed in Gaza by airdropped packages when the parachutes failed to deploy, underlining how dangerous and ineffective this method is.

More importantly, CJPME notes that Canada has done nothing to pressure Israel to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians. “Israel is using starvation as a weapon against the people of Gaza. This is an act of genocide. Hussen's job at this point should be to insist that Israel immediately allow unconditional and unrestricted aid delivery to Gaza, and bring in sanctions in order to enforce it,” said Woodley.

Minister Hussen initially suspended funding to UNRWA on January 26, 2024, based on unsubstantiated and flimsy Israeli allegations, and without seeing any evidence to back up the claims. According to today’s announcement, Canada has seen an interim report from the UN body investigating the claims. Oddly, Minister Hussen was scheduled to announce the resumption of UNRWA funding two days ago, but cancelled the press conference at the last minute without any explanation. Just yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau refused to say whether Canada would resume funding. “It is outrageous that Canada keeps playing these political games as Israel is starving children to death in Gaza,” added Woodley.

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 www.cjpme.org

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