Canadian officials cancel meeting set to unfreeze UNRWA funds: CBC

Canadian officials cancel meeting set to unfreeze UNRWA funds: CBC
CBC reported the Canadian government's decision to cancel a news conference about the resumption of funding to the UN Palestinian agency.
3 min read
07 March, 2024
Canada's minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen is expected to make an announcement on Canada's suspected return of funding of UNRWA, according to CBC [Getty]

Canadian officials cancelled a news conference scheduled for Wednesday, which was expected to announce the reinstatement of funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), according to Canadian broadcaster CBC News.

The event is expected to be rescheduled, CBC reported.

The broadcaster reported late Tuesday that the federal government aims to go ahead with a scheduled C$25 million payment in April and announce new funding, citing an unnamed government official.

If verified, Canada could be among the first countries to unfreeze funding for the agency that employs 13,000 people in Gaza to run schools, healthcare clinics and other social services, and to distribute humanitarian aid.

This comes after weeks of pausing donations over Israeli allegations that 12 of the agency's staff were involved in Hamas's surprise attack on Israel on 7 October.

The New Arab approached Canadian authorities for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Spokespeople in the foreign ministry and in the ministry of international development, which oversees Canadian aid, have not publicly commented on the CBC report.

None of the 16 countries that paused a total of $450 million in funding to UNRWA had reversed their decision yet, UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told news agency Reuters earlier on Wednesday.

Many of those countries are likely having second thoughts and payments could resume soon, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said on Wednesday.

However, Canada's Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen said last week that efforts to airdrop humanitarian relief into Gaza were underway as a means to explore other options

Working alongside countries such as Jordan, which has led several airdrop missions, Hussen said the movement of supplies brought in by truck was hampered due to a lengthy inspection process.

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Human rights organisation Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) described Canada's decision to airdrop aid as "inadequate" and added that "it amounts to little more than a photo op to distract from Canada’s ongoing suspension of funding to UNRWA".

"It is comical to suggest that airdropping a few supplies can in any way compensate for the harm that Canada is causing by its inept defunding of UNRWA," Michael Bueckert, CJPME Vice President, was quoted in a statement last Thursday.

"Instead of holding Israel accountable for lying about UNRWA and for the deliberate starving of the Palestinian population, an act of genocide, Canada turns to expensive photo ops that simply cannot address the problem."

Alongside Canada, the UK is also believed to be initiating plans to reinstate UNRWA funding. 

The UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) declined to provide confirmation to The New Arab on the suspected talks.

However, the Foreign Office told The New Arab that while UNRWA is a critical humanitarian body in providing aid to Gaza, as emphasised by Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the UK government is still pausing future funding in line with countries such as the US and Germany.

On Monday, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said the agency was "functioning hand-to-mouth" due to the funding pause that was triggered by Israel's accusation in January that 12 UNRWA staff participated in the Hamas attack.

The implicated UNRWA staff were dismissed and an independent internal UN investigation was initiated following the allegations.

Israeli authorities have long called for the agency to be dismantled, arguing that its mission is obsolete.

UNRWA strongly disputes this characterisation.

Reuters also contributed to this piece.