Ottawa has put IRFAN-Canada on a blacklist and RCMP has launched a terrorist financing probe, but group calls accusations against it “vague and unsupported.”
Ottawa hit a Canadian charity for Palestinian aid with a double blow Tuesday, declaring it a terrorist organization and launching an RCMP “terrorist financing investigation” that included a wide-ranging search operation at its Mississauga and Montreal offices.
The moves came a week before the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN-Canada) was to launch a Federal Court appeal against a Canada Revenue Agency decision to revoke its charitable status because of alleged links to Hamas and failure to keep adequate records.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs welcomed the actions, saying “all Canadians should be alarmed that millions of dollars were raised in Canada to support a foreign terrorist group with a long record of suicide bombings and other attacks against civilians.”
But Yavar Hameed, an Ottawa lawyer for IRFAN-Canada, said the allegations were “vague and unsupported,” and appeared unconstitutional. There was “no specific instance (given) of money being used for terrorist purposes.”
Hameed also questioned the timing of the moves against IRFAN. “We were preparing to appeal on IRFAN’s charitable status, and they could have been reinstated,” he said. “Now they are saddled with this and the government has shifted the train massively.”
On Tuesday Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced that the group was listed as a “terrorist entity” under the Criminal Code. “Between 2005 and 2009 IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas, a listed terrorist entity,” said a statement from his office.
It said that IRFAN’s actions “meet the legal threshold set out in the criminal code,” that it “knowingly participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity.”
In a separate statement, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said “we are determined to stop Canadian funds from getting in the hands of terrorist groups,” and “misusing charitable donations to fund terrorist activity.”
IRFAN-Canada lost its registered charity status in 2011 after a one-year suspension for failing to keep proper records. That followed years of tax audits and litigation prompted by politicians’ claims that the charity had ties to Hamas. The group was still allowed to collect donations for humanitarian relief without issuing tax receipts.
Its 2013 Facebook page says it has donated money to support Syrian orphans in Jordan, and audits by the Canada Revenue Agency say it funded a group that provided food packages and aid to the Palestinian ministry of health under Hamas.
According to Ottawa’s now-defunct Canadian International Development Agency, charitable funds are channelled through Hamas, whose political wing governs Gaza, because it “requires international and local aid organizations to co-ordinate relief efforts with it and monitors their distribution of funds.”
But during decade-long audits of the group, the Canada Revenue Agency alleged that Ard El Insan, the Gaza-based charity that received much of the aid money, dealt with a food importer accused by Israel of providing funding to terrorist groups. Ard El Insan recently partnered with the Save the Children Foundation to combat malnutrition in babies.
The revenue agency accused IRFAN-Canada of providing “over $14.6 million in resources to operating partners that were run by officials of Hamas,” alleging that they “openly supported and provided funding to Hamas, or have been listed by various jurisdictions because of their support for Hamas or other terrorist entities.” It also accused the Canadian group of demonizing Israel and inciting Muslim countries to join the struggle against it in videos.