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By Rhonda Spivak

Canada wants to re-direct funds it gives to UNWRA for food aid only said Victor Toews, the president of Canada's Treasury Board, said on January 11. UNWRA is the UN agency that runs Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon.

Toews also said that Canada will be "re-directing funds" given to "general operating expenses" of the PA Treasury towards specific projects in the area of justice and policing. Canadain aid will be redirected "to specific projects in the Palestinian Authority that will ensure accountability and foster democracy in the PA," he said.

Toews said that on January 9, he met with PA Minister of Planning and Administrative Development Ali al-Jarbawi in Ramallah, and funding to UNWRA was discussed. Until now, Canada has provided UNWRA with 11 percent of its budget, $10 million (Canadian) annually. Traditionally Canada's money has gone to UNWRA for food, clothing, health services, and schools.

Toews said that Canada will still give $15 million annually but it has been specifically earmarked for "food security."

  He said that in the past, Canada aid earmarked for UNWRA "went into a general operating fund" and although Jarbawi had asked that this situation continue, the practice made it "difficult" for Canada to monitor how the funds were being used.

Toews said Jarbawi had  also asked that Canadian money be given "directly" to the PA Treasury but Toews refused the request.

When asked whether Canada had concerns that UNWRA funds were being administered by Hamas operatives, Toews responded, "Canada has made a $300m. commitment over five years to the Palestinian Authority, but we want to put that money only into programs that are consistent with Canadian values. We are going to focus directing our funds on institution-building in the PA, such as building a proper functioning justice system. We need to insure that [the PA has] less wide discretion and the funds are being directed to specific projects."

Toews added, "I told him [Jarbawi] that our [Canada's] paramount concern is the security of Israel."

Toews, who is a former director of the Constitutional Law Branch at Manitoba's Department of Justice, said, "We are going to allocate money to training Palestinian prosecutors, and towards the Office of the Attorney-General, and the Public Prosecution Office. If we train people properly we will have the emergence of proper institutions necessary for a state."

"It is obviously more difficult to monitor the use of money sent into general funds than specific projects."

"Overall, Canada is not reducing the amount of money given to the PA, but it is now being redirected in accordance with Canadian values," he said.

Toews also met with PA Justice Minister Ali Khashan and Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughani.

Toews added, "Canada has pledged $20m.. towards training prosecutors, judges and police and building up the Palestinian judicial sector by building courthouses in Ramallah, Hebron and Tulkarm. But more important than building the courthouses is training the people... A fair and effective system of criminal justice with an efficient and independent Prosecutions Office and Attorney-General's Office is integral to the process, and to securing long-term peace and stability in the Middle East."

Toews indicated that he met with PA officials on behalf of Canada's minister of international development, Beverley Oda, who is in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency.

Regarding the PA's police force that is being trained by US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in Jordan, Toews said, "Canada has the largest contingency under Gen. Dayton. We have 18 officers, and the United States only has 10."

After noting that he had spoken to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and others, Toews said, "A full third of Palestinian Authority police have no training whatsoever."

Toews, who also visited Jordan during his trip, said he met with Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai, the kingdom's finance and planning ministers as well as the head of its Atomic Energy Commission, "because Jordan is looking to produce nuclear energy for desalination.

"They don't have water or energy that other Arab states have. We had very good discussions. Our Canadian technology, CANDU reactors are not conducive to the development of weapons grade uranium. I met with an expert... at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who assured me that this was the case. I wanted to verify it myself."

Toews was in Israel on behalf of the Canadian government to participate in the second annual Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium hosted by the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.

 To see the story as it appears Jan 13/2010 issue of the Jerusalem Post


Editors note:

A January 20th article in Canada's Embassy Magazine by Lee Berthiame said that officials in the offices of both Canadian  Ministers Toews and Oda "have confirmed that Canada's $15 million will now be spent specifically on food security instead of supplementing UNWRA's general fund."


The article says that  the Canadain  Government "has quietly taken what many consider the first step to cutting ties with the UN agency [UNWRA]..."

Meanwhile, Jerusalem based journalist David Bedein reports that a senior Canadian government  official has corroborated the fact that Canada will now essentially defund UNWRA and apply UNWRA funds to food aid only. The Canadian  government official cited a report commissioned by the European parlaiment, which documented that Hamas terrorists have been chosen  by the UNRWA labor union to actually administer UNWRA facilities. The official said  that this report played a role in forming Canada's new policiy to wards UNWRA.

Canada heads the "Refugee Working Group (RWG)", a subgroup of the Madrid  Middle East Summit in October 1991, to oversee Palestinian refugee policy for the  38 nations that contribute to UNWRA.

Bedein notes that Canada's shift in  its position regarding UNWRA  will most likely not go unnoticed by the 38 countries that contribute to the half a  billion-dollar UNWRA budget.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.