Ottawa is downplaying the idea of bringing children badly injured in the Middle East conflict to Ontario to be treated, suggesting the risks could outweigh the benefits.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday that, while it is a noble gesture, it makes far more sense to take Canadian medical expertise to the children, as well as the materials necessary to treat them.
Adam Hodge was responding to Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ offer to open the doors of provincial pediatric hospitals to children from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, who can’t be properly treated in Gaza.
“We applaud the humanitarian instincts of those who want to assist victims of Hamas, and we are focused on ensuring that those humanitarian instincts achieve the greatest impact,” Hodge said.
But, he added, “those who want their support to have the greatest impact must recognize the importance of ensuring innocent victims receive the medical support they need close to their families and loved ones, and that includes avoiding the medical risks and dangers of being transported overseas.”
Hoskins in an earlier interview with the Toronto Star acknowledged that the offer had its complexities, not the least of which is deciding who would be eligible for treatment and the diplomatic paperwork required for the children to travel to Canada.
Hoskins said Thursday Ontario was responding to a formal request from Toronto’s Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who suffered the loss of three of his daughters in a 2009 Israeli attack on Gaza, “to make the necessary resources available to allow our hospitals to treat these children in Ontario provided that a number of logistical hurdles be cleared by the federal government and other relevant parties.”
“These include arranging for exit visas, and the security clearance of any adults travelling with each child. It has been our goal from the beginning to identify kids who have specific and complex medical needs that cannot be met where they live,” Hoskins, who co-founded the charity War Child Canada, said in a statement.
Hodge said Ottawa is exploring options with international partners and stakeholders “on how best to deploy Canadian medical expertise, financing and matériel to support victims of Hamas on the ground, and create sustainable medical solutions in the region.”