Stung by criticism, Ottawa to give $1M to support victims of sexual violence by Hamas


Ottawa –

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada is pledging $1 million to support Israeli victims of sexual violence during last October’s attacks by Hamas.

“I think it is going to take years to uncover everything that happened,” said Kelly Aizicowitz, a former political aide who is helping co-ordinate with various Jewish organizations in support of Israeli women.

Ottawa has not said which groups will receive the $1 million, nor when. Canada is also offering RCMP support for investigations, though it’s unclear whether Israeli officials have made any specific request.

Joly announced the measures on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday, saying the funding is for “organizations who are supporting survivors of sexual violence committed by Hamas.”

The announcement meets a request made three months ago by a cross-partisan group of women who have held political office in Canada, including former federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and former Ontario Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne.

“I’m glad that they fulfilled the entire request. If it could have been sooner, great. But I am happy that they have come through,” Aizicowitz said.

Last week, a UN envoy said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape and “sexualized torture” during the attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Israeli women’s organizations have criticized their global peers for being slow to acknowledge sexual violence by Hamas, and Canada’s envoy for combating antisemitism chalked that delay up to anti-Jewish attitudes.

The Conservatives have argued the Liberals were late in condemning sexual violence by Hamas, and argued statements by the government about gendered violence in general had downplayed the horrors of last October’s attacks.

In recent months, Israeli police have said forensic evidence of rape was not preserved in the chaos of the attack and Hamas killed many of the people who were believed to be victims of sexual assault.

Joly made the announcement while in Israel as part of a tour of the Middle East to advocate for humanitarian relief for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Israelis with family ties to Canada will be in Ottawa next week to speak with MPs about the Oct. 7 attacks, with a particular focus on sexual violence by Hamas.

“They’re coming here to bring a voice to the violence against women, in the face of the constant denialism that the people in Israel are facing,” said Ariella Kimmel, who is helping co-ordinate the visit with Aizicowitz. 

“If you advocate for women, then that advocacy can’t be dependent on whether or not you agree with the government of the country.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2024.


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