Unions call on Ottawa to reinstate UNRWA funding

PV staff  

Six labour unions which collectively represent over 2 million workers across Canada have issued a joint statement calling on the federal government to reinstate funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA is the primary agency delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, where two million people presently rely on it for their survival.

On January 26, the same day the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s siege of Gaza is “plausible genocide” and ordered a series of emergency measures to protect the people there, Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen announced that Canada was suspending additional funding to UNRWA. While Hussen later said that Canada’s humanitarian funding to Gaza would increase, Global Affairs made it clear that the funds would not go to UNRWA.

Ottawa’s decision is based on an unproven claim by the Israeli government that 12 UNRWA employees, out of a total of 30,000, may have participated in some way in the October 7 attack by Hamas.

On February 9 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, National Union of Public and General Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Unifor and the United Steelworkers jointly called on the government to reverse its decision and reinstate the UNRWA funding increases.

“It is particularly cruel for large donor countries to deny this critical organization its funding at this time, considering the current catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by ongoing bombardment by Israel,” said the joint statement. “Interim measures announced for funding to other aid organizations are not a sufficient response and do not mitigate the devastating impact the suspension of funding will have on the work of UNRWA.”

The unions noted that UNRWA acted quickly to investigate Israel’s allegations and refers to Ottawa’s response as “highly disproportionate action.”

United Nations representatives, humanitarian organizations and several governments around the world have all warned that the cuts to UNRWA funding – which were imposed by Canada as well as the US, Britain and other Western states – will deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The agency’s funding is expected to run out by the end of February unless the cuts are restored, and donations are increased.

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