Canada Will Restore Funding to UNRWA, the Embattled U.N. Agency in Gaza

The Canadian Press via AP
Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen rises during Question Period, in Ottawa on April 28, 2022.

TORONTO (AP) — Canada will restore funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians, weeks after the agency, known as UNRWA, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in support following Israeli allegations against some of its staffers in Gaza.

Canada was one of 16 countries that temporarily halted future payments.

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of International Development, said Canada has been reassured after receiving an interim report from the United Nations investigation of Israel’s allegations.

“Canada is resuming its funding to UNRWA so more can be done to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians. Canada will continue to take the allegations against some of UNRWA’s staff extremely seriously and we will remain closely engaged with UNRWA and the UN to pursue accountability and reforms,” Hussen said.

The Canadian government was set to announce the decision on Wednesday but delayed it until Friday, for reasons that were not immediately clear.

The Israel-Hamas war has driven 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes, and U.N. officials say a quarter of the population is starving as access to the enclave is restricted. UNRWA, which employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza, is the main supplier of food, water and shelter there, but it is on the brink of financial collapse.

Israel accused 12 of its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and left about 250 others held hostage in Gaza. In response, more than a dozen countries including Canada suspended funding to UNRWA worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for the year.

Two U.N. investigations into Israel’s allegations were already underway when the European Union said last Friday it will give 50 million euros ($54 million) to UNRWA after the agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.

Israel now alleges that 450 UNRWA employees were members of militant groups in Gaza, though it has provided no evidence.

The Canadian government is due to contribute $25 million Canadian ($19 million) to UNRWA in April and did not miss a payment as a result of the pause.

Canada will also send $100,000 Canadian (US$74,000) to the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization for supplies including food and blankets to be delivered to the territory. The Canadian military will also send 300 cargo parachutes to Jordan to help with airdrops of critical supplies.

UNRWA in a statement has accused Israel of detaining several of its staffers and using torture and ill treatment to force them to give false confessions about the links between the agency, Hamas and the Oct. 7 attack.

The attack sparked an Israeli invasion that Gaza’s Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, says has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians.