funding feud

Canadian relatives of Oct. 7 victims take government to court over renewed UNRWA funding

The 'decision to re-instate UNRWA funding flies in the face of Canada's own anti-terrorism provisions of the criminal code,' states the families’ application for judicial review

Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

Palestinian families take refuge under harsh conditions at a school affiliated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) at the Daraj neighborhood as the Israeli attacks continue in Gaza City, Gaza on February 6, 2024.

Canadian families whose relatives were murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7 sued Ottawa in federal court to block the government’s plan to reinstate funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

Canada paused its funding for UNRWA, the U.N. agency dealing with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, after Israel provided evidence that some of its staff took part in the Hamas attack on Israel last year, and UNRWA’s leadership dismissed them to investigate the allegations. Later reports found that large numbers of UNRWA staff are members and supporters of Hamas.

Last month, however, Canadian Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen’s office announced that Ottawa “will be lifting its temporary pause” and supports the U.N.’s “processes to address the allegations and reinforce its zero tolerance for terror” after having reviewed an interim report on the matter. The statement touted UNRWA’s “vital role in Gaza, providing over 2 million people with humanitarian relief.” 

The families’ application for judicial review, filed with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Jewish federation’s advocacy arm in Canada, contends that the Canadian government demonstrably knew about UNRWA’s ties to Hamas, a terrorist group proscribed by Ottawa, and as such, the “decision to re-instate UNRWA funding flies in the face of Canada’s own anti-terrorism provisions of the criminal code.” According to Canadian law, it is “a criminal offense to collect or provide property or make available financial or other services knowing that they will be used in whole or in part for the purpose of facilitating terrorist activity.”

CIJA stated that with its “well-documented links to Hamas, a terrorist organization under Canadian law,” by funding UNRWA, Ottawa would be “in violation of its own anti-terrorism legislation.”

CIJA Vice President Richard Marceau, a former member of Canada’s parliament, said that Ottawa should not transfer tax money to UNRWA until there is a judicial ruling following the organization’s petition, noting that “there are other credible and qualified organizations for this humanitarian aid, such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World Food Program, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.” 

“Canadian money given to UNRWA will only help Hamas continue attacking Jews and other Israelis,” Marceau said. 

Among the family members joining the petition are Dikla Mizrachi, mother of Ben Mizrachi; Iris Liniado, daughter of Judith Weinstein Haggai; Jacqui Vital, mother of Adi Vital-Kaploun; and Raquel Ohnona, mother of Alexandre Look. They released a statement that they are “appalled and sickened by the decision of the Canadian government to reinstate funding to UNRWA given its ties and support of the terrorism that took our loved ones’ lives.”

Canada’s reinstatement of funding to UNRWA also came as Ottawa announced a ban on military exports to Israel.

In the U.S., the 2024 budget bill banned funding UNRWA until next year and introduced additional oversight for any aid going to Gaza.

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