Yesterday in Parliament – November 30, 2018
House of Commons
Statements by Members
Jewish Refugee Day
Mr. Speaker, today on Jewish Refugee Day, I wish to commemorate the nearly one million Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Iran and other Arab countries due to religious persecution. These Jewish families were devastated as they were forced into exile and forced to experience injustices, the most egregious human rights violations, systemic violence and even genocide. Fortunately, some were able to flee to Israel, Europe, South America, and even here in Canada where their vibrant communities today exemplify their strength and resilience.
While the community continues to thrive, we remember these refugees and their lived experiences, as many suffer similar injustices around the world today. On this day, let us reflect and recognize the persecution and the sacrifices of these Jewish refugees and what they had to endure. Let us also celebrate their accomplishments and resilience, all of which are a testament to the strength of this community.
Question No. 1985–
Mr. Dean Allison:
With regard to the October 2018 announcement that the government would provide $50 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees: (a) what specific written guarantees, if any, does the government have that the funding will not be used for anti-Semitic or anti-Israel activities; and (b) what is the website location where the text of any written guarantees mentioned in (a), can be located?
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau (Minister of International Development, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, on October 12, 2018, Global Affairs Canada announced Canada’s continued support to Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA. Canada committed $40 million over two years to help meet the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of vulnerable Palestinian refugees, especially women and children. In addition, Canada committed $10 million to UNRWA’s emergency appeal for Palestinian refugees impacted by the regional crisis caused by war in Syria.
Importantly, Canada’s funding is also contributing to UNRWA’s neutrality activities, which include regular inspections of the agency’s facilities by specially trained UNRWA officers who can identify, report and take action on violations of neutrality; training for UNRWA staff on neutrality, including in social media, and for senior staff on how to carry out effective installation inspections; promotion of students’ knowledge and skills reflecting United Nations, UN, values, including human rights, conflict resolution, gender equality and tolerance, through educational activities and materials; and UNRWA’s development, distribution and use of additional educational materials, as part of the agency’s approach to enable teachers to promote neutrality. This support also builds on funding Canada provided from 2017 to 2019 to hire a neutrality coordinator to monitor activities and respond promptly to allegations of neutrality violations. This assistance demonstrates how Canada and UNRWA are working together to ensure respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, operational independence and impartiality. This is essential to the effective delivery of its work and to Canada’s continued support to UNRWA.
Canada is aware that UNRWA has faced various criticisms and allegations. In Canada’s view, UNRWA has demonstrated its commitment to establish conditions to ensure that assistance is provided to the most vulnerable while increasing strong accountability and neutrality measures among its over 30,000 employees. Canada is working with UNRWA to establish additional measures to ensure thorough monitoring, reporting and accountability. Our funding enables us to be an active member of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, and we continue to work on a regular basis with UNRWA and other donor governments to advance reforms related to governance, effectiveness, monitoring and financial administration. Canada’s participation provides an opportunity for oversight, influence and engagement on key issues.
Canada and other donors support UNRWA’s efforts to ensure that UNRWA students learn UN values such as neutrality, human rights, conflict resolution, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination based on race, gender, language and religion. UNRWA has in place a formal framework to review all textbooks and, where needed, provides additional training for teachers to address any problematic issues related to neutrality, bias, gender equality or age appropriateness.
Canada exercises enhanced due diligence for all international assistance funding for Palestinians, including funding for UNRWA. This includes strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements, ongoing oversight, regular site visits, and a systematic screening process. All programming and funding mechanisms are thoroughly examined to ensure consistency with Canadian values and to meet the highest standards of transparency and accountability. If and when issues arise, Canada and UNRWA engage quickly and openly.
Regarding additional measures that Canada requires UNRWA undertake to ensure its neutrality, Canada and UNRWA have agreed to a framework for cooperation that outlines shared commitments and Canada’s expectations regarding the implementation of UNRWA’s reform initiatives, regular monitoring and reporting, and compliance with Canadian anti-terrorism requirements. This framework for cooperation is publicly available on the Global Affairs Canada internet site: http://international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/priorities-priorites/where-ou/gac_un_unrwa-amc_nu_unrwa.aspx?lang=eng.
Upholding the neutrality of its operations allows UNRWA to deliver effectively on its important assistance to Palestinian refugees. Canada will continue to take all allegations of neutrality violations very seriously.
Our government will continue to support the provision of assistance to the most vulnerable on behalf of Canadians, in a way that reflects Canadian values. Thanks to UNRWA’s work, more than three million people have access to primary health care, and over half a million Palestinian refugee girls and boys benefit from the quality education provided to them in UN schools.
Nothing to report.
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