Canadian Charity Fights to Remove ‘Terrorist’ Label

(CN) — A charity that provides aid in the West Bank and Gaza has taken the Canadian government to court over its designation as a “terrorist entity,” for purportedly funneling money to Hamas.

The International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (Canada) and its general manager Rasem Abdel Majid claim in a judicial review application against the Attorney General of Canada that the Canadian government wrongfully refuses to delist the group as a terrorist entity.

Majid and IRFAN’s Feb. 24 complaint in the Federal Court of Canada was spurred by the country’s public safety minister’s denying their request in December 2016.

In April 2014 the Canadian government designated IRFAN-Canada as a “terrorist entity … on the ground of having alleged associational linkages to Hamas because of international assistance work in Gaza,” according to the complaint.

IRFAN says its listing is unreasonable, unconstitutional and without merit, as it administers humanitarian aid to people in “extreme poverty.” It says that when the government listed it as a terrorist it could not identify any recipients of donations as “an illicit individual or entity.”

“IRFAN-Canada aided thousands of orphans in Palestine. To ensure the orphans received the aid they needed in a manner that was both efficient and accountable, IRFAN-Canada sent money to them through the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (MTIT) because it was in charge of the post offices in the Palestinian National Authority-controlled areas,” the application states. “The allegations against IRFAN-Canada generalize that because some members of Hamas have been linked to the broader MTIT, IRFAN-Canada has somehow supported Hamas. This assertion is both wrong and unsubstantiated. It is akin to arguing that buying stamps at a local Canadian post office in 2014 amounts to knowingly aiding the Canadian government to fulfill its mandate. “

The charity says it never “knowingly” worked with banned groups or prohibited charities in the region, whose legal status changed “without notice to IRFAN-Canada.”

Majid claims he lost his job as a result of the listing and has been turned away by banks when attempting to open a personal account.

He also claims the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has refused to return seized property and that he has been “subject to increased scrutiny and detention during travel despite being 73 years old and have no criminal record.”

The charity’s fight with the Canadian government is long-running. Its charitable status was stripped in 2011 after an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency. In 2014, the group’s offices were raided by the R.C.M.P. and it was branded as a terrorist entity for allegedly funneling millions to Hamas-linked organizations.

Public Safety Canada spokeswoman Karine Martel declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

“The Crown will be participating in that proceeding and addressing the issues raised in court,” she said.

The applicants are represented by Yavar Hameed and Faisal Mirza, who could not be reached for comment by press time.

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