Canada has joined the United States in suspending funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East following allegations of staff involvement in Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel.
This development reflects a growing concern among donor nations regarding the integrity and neutrality of international humanitarian organizations.
Canada’s minister of international development, Ahmed Hussen, released a statement Friday confirming that Canada would temporarily pause funding to UNRWA during the investigation. He said that he had spoken with the UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to express Canada’s alarm about allegations of his agency’s staff being involved in Hamas’s brutal terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7.
“Should the allegations prove to be accurate, Canada expects UNRWA to immediately act against those determined to have been involved in Hamas’s terrorist attacks,” wrote Hussen in his statement. “As UNRWA undertakes this investigation, Canada will not reduce its support to the people of Gaza. Canada will continue to work with other partners to provide life-saving assistance to civilians in Gaza.”
Canada’s decision comes in the wake of a broader international reaction to the incident, with the United States announcing earlier in the day a temporary halt to its funding of UNRWA shortly after the allegations surfaced.
“The United States is extremely troubled by the allegations that twelve UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel,” stated US Department of State’s spokesperson Matthew Miller in a press statement issued on Friday.
Citizens across Canada were calling on the federal government to follow suit and suspend its funding to the UNRWA.
Independent MP Kevin Vuong said in a post to X that he called for Hussen to review UNRWA’s funding last year.
Since then, Vuong said that Switzerland has voted to cut its funding to the organization, the US has halted its funding, the Secretary-General of the UN has called for an investigation, and the UNRWA has fired staff implicated in October 7 terrorism.
“Will @HonAhmedHussen finally act?” asked Vuong in his post.
Vuong’s answer came only a few hours after Hussen’s statement surfaced.
Many other Canadians were echoing Vuong’s call to action for the federal government during the day on Friday.
One of those citizens was David Granovsky, Director of Government Relations for B’nai Brith Canada, the country’s oldest independent Jewish human rights organization.
“@bnaibrithcanada believes that it is imperative that Canada pause its funding of #UNRWA and that the @un immediately commence its proposed comprehensive review of UNRWA and its role in the October 7th massacre,” he wrote in a post to X, tagging Hussen.
The UNRWA, known for its humanitarian work in Gaza, has been under scrutiny after Israel provided evidence suggesting the involvement of several agency employees in the October attacks.
In response, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini issued a statement.
“I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay,” he said. “Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states.
Despite pausing its funding, Hussen said that Canada remains deeply concerned by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and continues to call for the rapid, sustained, and unimpeded passage of essential relief so that it can reach those in need.
“We urge all parties to uphold international humanitarian law,” said Hussen.