Canada pledges $38M to UNRWA for sake of regional ‘stability’

Government minister claims that there will be “robust control measures” to ensure the money goes where it should.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Canadian government announced Friday the addition of CDN 50 million ($38 million) over the next two years to the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees in reaction to the organization’s plea for help following the American withdrawal of $360 million in funding earlier this year.

“Palestinian refugees are among the poorest and most vulnerable, and it is my mandate to help them,” Minister for International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau stated in Parliament.

Canada’s contribution was for the sake of “stability” in the region, as the children would be in UNRWA schools rather than on the streets, she said.

Rona Ambrose, leader of the Conservative opposition, questioned this reasoning in the legislative chamber.

“It is well-documented that schools run by the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency within the Palestinian Authority have incited terrorism against Israel,” she said. “The Conservative government rightly cut UNRWA’s funding because we had no assurances about where the money was going…. How can [the prime minister] ensure these dollars will not put Israeli citizens at further risk?

“Or is this just another downpayment of Canadian tax dollars to win him a UN Security Council seat?”

Bibeau said that her office conducted “meaningful oversight and negotiat[ed] an agreement that includes robust control measures” over the donations.

Most of the funds will go towards “meeting the basic education, health and livelihood needs” of Palestinians, specifically “to send hundreds of thousands of children to school, train teachers and support over a hundred health clinics,” she said.

Another $10 million is geared for “emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon,” according to a government statement. It added that some of the money will help UNRWA with “its ongoing efforts to improve neutrality within the agency and its operations.”

In 2016, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overturned his predecessor’s decision to cut aid to the organization.

Among the reasons State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert cited last month for the US decision to cut aid to UNRWA were “the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business” and UNRWA’s “endlessly crisis-driven service provision model.”

“The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” Nauert stated.