TORONTO — The province of Ontario has offered to treat Palestinian and Israeli children wounded in the Israel-Gaza war.
The announcement from Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said the province is willing to take the most serious cases from both Gaza and Israel if the children are unable to receive proper treatment at home but can make the journey to Canada, reports Canadian Press.
Israeli and Palestinian authorities have indicated they’re willing to co-operate with the effort, Hoskins said.
Five Ontario hospitals — including Toronto’s famed Hospital for Sick Children — have offered to treat the kids, with some medical staff even offering to work for free.
“Children who are suffering on either side of the conflict, we want to do what we can to help them,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters Tuesday.
Hoskins, who co-founded and led the charity War Child Canada before entering politics, told the Toronto Star that Ontarians “have a moral responsibility to respond in this instance.”
“My heart goes out to the victims, particularly the youngest victims on any side of this conflict or any conflict for that matter. And I think that’s also what Canadians are thinking at this moment in time,” he told CP.
Hoskins noted the request to Canadians to help both Israeli and Palestinian children came from Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who now lives in Toronto. Three of Abuelaish’s daughters were killed in Israel’s shelling of Gaza in 2009.
Speaking to The CJN, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), wondered why Gaza was being singled out for concern.
"We have yet to hear of a large scale initiative to bring children from other conflict zones in the Middle East to Canada for treatment. Tragically, there are thousands of children victimized by conflict in the broader region whose plight is going unnoticed and are in need of urgent medical care," Fogel said.
"This raises the question: why the selective focus on Gaza? We always support Canada’s direct engagement in providing aid to address humanitarian situations worldwide in the most practical and effective ways possible. Israel regularly provides Gaza’s children with access to world-class medical treatment in Israeli hospitals."
Asked whether CIJA is concerned that this initiative could allow terrorists in Canada, perhaps as parents accompanying children, Fogel said his group expects the "government of Canada will take every precaution to prevent that from happening."
On Aug. 5, federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair issued an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging him to support Abuelaish's proposal to bring Gazan children to Canada for treatment.
“Many Canadians are asking themselves what we can do to help,” Mulcair said in his letter. “Dr. Abuelaish's unifying message of reconciliation is an example to us all," Muclair wrote. "He believes that to achieve peace, we must refuse to hate. Only in that spirit can we hope to bring people together to forge a just, secure and lasting peace.”