Monday, October 25, 2004

Canada Refuses to Cut UNRWA Funding

The Canadian government has announced that it will continue to fund the work of UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) despite an admission earlier this month by the organization’s commissioner-general that members of the Hamas terrorist group were employed by his agency.

“Canada has no plans to discontinue its contributions”, Canadian foreign affairs spokesman Marie Christine Lilkoff told the Canadian Jewish News in its latest issue, in effect rebuffing calls by various Jewish groups to suspend financial aid to the UN-run organization.

UNRWA head Peter Hansen caused a stir in early October when he told a television reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that, “I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll. And I don’t see that as a crime.”
Canada contributes about $10 million annually to UNRWA

The remarks placed the Canadian government in an uncomfortable position, as they had previously outlawed Hamas for its terrorist activities. Hence, by supporting UNRWA, Ottawa might indirectly be assisting Hamas as well.

In response to Hansen’s statement, B’nai Brith Canada called on the Canadian government “to withhold immediately any payments to UNRWA until there can be absolute assurances that contributions from Canadian citizens will never be used to support terrorist operatives.”

Canadian officials reportedly raised the issue with Hansen, and were apparently mollified by his assurances that he had been referring to his employees’ “political sympathies, not membership” in Hamas in his televised interview. Hansen also asserted that UNRWA “is not in the business of employing terrorists.” (Apparently, no one decided to look again at the interview. -EoZ)

As a result, the Canadians have now decided not to suspend or discontinue their funding of the organization.

Canada contributes about $10 million annually to UNRWA, which represents approximately 5% of the organization’s yearly budget.