OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced an additional $25 million in aid to help the people of Lebanon struggling to recover from last week’s devastating explosion in Beirut.
That brings Canada’s total contribution to the international aid effort to $30 million.
Trudeau says the additional funding is intended to help trusted humanitarian aid groups “support emergency medical services and provide shelter, food, and other essential items for people impacted by the blast.”
Trudeau’s government was criticized last week for doing too little to help the Lebanese people, promising only an initial $5 million.
Of that, $2 million was to match donations from Canadians.
Last Tuesday’s blast is believed to have been detonated by thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for seven years at a portside warehouse.
“We will continue to monitor this tragic situation, and work closely with the international community and humanitarian partners to identify how we can continue to support the people of Lebanon and respond to their urgent needs,” a government statement released late Monday said.
International Development Minister Karina Gould was more explicit.
“Our government is sending a clear message to the Lebanese people that we will not only be there for them for the immediate response to this tragedy, but also for the rebuilding efforts over the long-term,” she said in the statement.
“We are ready to do more and we will ensure that our investments go directly to communities affected.”
Trudeau said that matching funding has now been expanded to a maximum of $5 million.
He encouraged Canadians to donate to the Lebanon matching fund, saying: “Together, we can support the people of Lebanon as they work to heal and rebuild.”
More than 150 people were killed in the blast, thousands more were injured and an estimated 300,000 residents were left homeless.
Canada’s additional aid was announced just hours after Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government following days of angry protests. He blamed the blast on “the result of endemic corruption.”
Bessma Momani, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, said the Canadian government’s initial $5 million in aid was “inadequate and not commensurate with what a G7 country with strong diaspora links to Lebanon and with a self-proclaimed internationalist agenda should commit.”
She questioned why the government put an initial $2-million cap on matching donations.
“This is a time when our government should encourage (Canadians) to give generously.”