Canadian aid dollars went to purchasing equipment that was later stolen by an armed Islamist terror group in Syria, according to declassified documents obtained by Global News.

So much for the Liberal claim that Canadian foreign aid is sacrosanct.

During the recent federal election campaign, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced a proposal to cut Canada’s foreign aid contributions by 25%. He was met with a familiar push-back from the mainstream media.

So-called experts and partisan fact-checkers were quick to quarrel with Scheer’s assertion that some of the $6 billion Canada sends overseas to foreign governments and government-adjacent industries is poorly spent, wasted or goes to hostile regimes and causes counter to Canada’s national interest.

Liberals in politics and the media condemned the Conservatives for preferring to spend money at home to help Canadians in need rather than sending our taxpayer dollars to unaccountable organizations often doing work that is futile and counter-productive.

As an aside, I wrote my graduate school dissertation on free market foreign aid initiatives and spent months combing through the literature and data on foreign aid. My conclusion, which aligns with others such as Zambian economist Dambiso Moyo (whose book Dead Aid should be required reading for anyone in the field) and NYU economist William Easterly, is that traditional bilateral and multilateral aid often harms the recipients more than it helps.

Supporters of foreign aid like to point to examples like South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore — countries that had struggling economies and were major aid-recipients 30 years ago and are now wealthy trading partners — as examples of why foreign aid works.

To state the obvious, it was free market policies and the rule of law, not government hand-outs and wealth redistribution, that led to meaningful development in the Far East.

As is typical in the Canadian media landscape though, there were no voices providing this counter perspective.  This week’s news, however, supplies another data point to support Scheer’s perspective on foreign aid.

An access to information request showed that in August 2018, Canadian foreign aid to Syria was stolen by an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization. As reported by Global News, “gunmen raided an office in northwest Syria and walked off with almost two dozen electronic devices that were part of Canada’s humanitarian contribution to the region.”

The gunmen were part of a radical Islamist militia, known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an arm of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. They stole laptop computers, projectors, iPads, mobile phones and two-way radios — all useful equipment for terrorist groups to communicate, spread propaganda and plan their next gruesome attack.

Global News points out that, since this group is a listed terrorist entity through the Department of Public Safety, Canadians face up to 10 years in prison for knowingly providing it with property.

The Criminal Code’s law on financing of terrorism is far more explicit than that. Anyone who “directly or indirectly” provides property that goes towards supporting terrorist activity “is guilty of an indictable offence.”

I have a feeling there’s an exemption when it’s our own government who unwillingly provides material support to our enemies.

This example is just the tip of the iceberg as to why Canadians should be wary of our tax dollars going overseas to support various unaccountable schemes under the auspices of foreign aid.

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