CANADA ELECTS TO DEFUND UNRWA AND APPLY FUNDS TO PA JUSTICE SYSTEM
By Rhonda Spivak
Canada advised the Palestinian Authority on January 9th, that it will be re-directing funds given to "general operatiing expenses" of the PA Treasury towards specific projects in the area of justice and policing, according to Minister Victor Toews, President of Canada's Treasury Board.
Canadian 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. UNWRA is the UN agency that runs Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Until now, Canada has provided UNWRA with 11 percent of its budget, $15 million (Canadian) annually. Canada's funding of UNWRA, while still continuing to be $15 million annually has been specifically earmarked for "food security."
Toews also met with PA Justice Minister Ali Khashan and Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughani.
He said that in the past, Canada aid earmarked for UNWRA "went into a general operating fund" in the PA Treasury 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 asked that the money be given "directly' to the PA Treasury but Toews refused the request.
Vic Toews meeting with Palestinian
officials in Ramallah
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 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."
Vic Toews meeting with US Lt.-Gen.
"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.
Rhonda Spivak, an attorney and a writer, is a member of the Canadian and Israel Bar Associations, now editing the Winnipeg Jewish Report at http://winnipegjewishreport.com/