UN urges Ottawa to restore funding for Palestinian refugee program
Monday, March 28, 2016

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is calling on the Liberal government to restore Canada’s funding for the UN agency that works with Palestinian refugees, six years after the former Conservative government cut support over the organization’s alleged ties to Hamas.

Filippo Grandi, who also served as the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from 2010 to 2014, said he hopes Canada will revive its funding for the organization, which was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees. The high commissioner’s comments come as the government works to return to its role as an “honest broker” in the region.

“In the political desert of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in terms of solutions, you need at least to give some hope to the Palestinians, and much of that hope, I’m afraid, these days comes from the education programs of UNRWA, the health programs that are provided to the Palestinian refugees,” Mr. Grandi said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “I hope that this government will consider becoming again the strong supporter that Canada used to be.”

Last month, The Globe reported that the Liberals are considering providing $15-million in annual funding to UNRWA. International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has indicated an openness to restoring the funding, but a spokesman for her office said the government has not made a decision yet.

The Conservatives cut all $30-million in annual funding to UNRWA in 2010 over its alleged links to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Canada. Mr. Grandi said he spoke to the Conservative government at the time about its decision and explained that its position was flawed. He said that while UNRWA interacts with Hamas to support Palestinian refugees, it does not support the organization.

“Hamas is a de facto authority in Gaza. … An organization like UNRWA, organizations that do humanitarian work, they need to interact with whoever is in control of that particular place. That has nothing to do with recognizing them politically.”

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Source: The Globe and Mail