Relatives of October 7 victims file suit against Canadian resumption of UNRWA funding

Federal Court application says renewed funding for UNRWA ‘a grotesque violation of Canadian values’; families of Hamas victims ‘appalled and sickened’ by decision

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A group of Canadian citizens and residents whose children and parents were murdered by Hamas during the October 7 atrocities has filed an application in the Canadian Federal Court to the country’s attorney general demanding the annulment of the Canadian government’s decision in March to resume funding to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The family members of the Hamas victims argued in their application to Arif Virani that UNRWA’s history of propagating incitement against Jews in its schools, the membership of hundreds of UNRWA employees in Hamas, and the alleged participation of some 15 UNRWA employees in the October 7 massacres contravenes Canadian laws relating to international aid and Canadian values as expressed in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As such, the decision taken by Canadian Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen on March 8 to resume funding of UNRWA after it was frozen on January 26 “was patently unreasonable,” the applicants contend.

The application was filed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) together with Dikla Mizrachi, the Canadian mother of Ben Mizrachi who was murdered at the Nova music festival; Iris Liniado, a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen and daughter of Judih Weinstein and Gad Haggai who were both murdered on October 7 and their bodies taken hostage; and Jacqui Vital, a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen and mother of Adi Vital-Kaploun who was also murdered on October 7.

“Our families are appalled and sickened by the decision of the Canadian government to reinstate funding to UNRWA given its ties and support of the terrorism that took our loved ones’ lives,” the group said in a joint statement when filing the application last week.

Richard Marceau, a vice president at CIJA, argued that funding UNRWA would “only help Hamas continue attacking Jews and other Israelis,” and said that Canadian funding should be frozen until a ruling on the application is made, “especially when there are other credible and qualified organizations for this humanitarian aid, such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World Food Programme, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.”

IDF soldiers take up position as they enter the UNRWA headquarters, where the military discovered tunnels underneath the UN agency that the military says Hamas terrorists used to attack its forces during a ground operation in Gaza, February 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages under the cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

A series of reports about the involvement of UNRWA staff in October 7 massacre, backed by comments made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as reports about the large number of UNRWA staff with close ties to Hamas and other terror groups, led numerous countries, including Canada, to freeze their funding for the agency.

The application against the resumption of funding to UNRWA underlined the highly problematic history of the agency, including concerns raised about the involvement of its staff members in the October 7 atrocities.

In February, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed that of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza, at least 12% were affiliated with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror groups, including 1,468 employees active in Hamas and PIJ. Of those, 185 UNRWA workers were active in the military branches of Hamas and 51 in the PIJ military branch, he said.

Gallant also alleged that at least 12 UNRWA employees took an active part in the October 7 massacre and that at least 30 more assisted by facilitating the taking of hostages and looting from Israeli communities overrun by Hamas terrorists.

And numerous reports have found that UNRWA schools and teachers continue to teach hatred of Jews and glorify terrorism.

The application against the renewal of UNRWA funding also referenced the discovery by IDF troops of a Hamas subterranean data center — complete with an electrical room, industrial battery power banks and living quarters for Hamas terrorists operating the computer servers —  under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters in February.

In light of these circumstances, the application called the decision to resume UNRWA funding “a grotesques violation of Canadian values,” and noted that under the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act of 2013 the minister for international development must ensure that Canada’s contributions to international development and humanitarian assistance “are in line with Canadian values and priorities.”

Video showing an UNRWA worker driving a white UN jeep, and abducting the body of Jonathan Samerano, who was killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7 (Screenshot)

The application also noted that under the 2008 Official Development Assistance Accountability Act foreign aid provided by the Canadian government must be “consistent with Canadian values, Canadian foreign policy,” and “democracy promotion and that promotes international human rights standards.”

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