Canadians donated nearly $32-million to a government matching fund to help Syrian relief efforts, a total that fell well short of the $100-million goal Ottawa pledged to match last year.
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced on Wednesday that Canadians gave $31.8-million to charitable organizations through the Syria Emergency Relief Fund. The government extended the deadline for donations in January after only $12-million had been raised.
Ms. Bibeau said the government will match the $31.8-million and add $68.2-million in humanitarian assistance to address the needs of people affected by the Syrian conflict across the region, for a total of $100-million in federal money.
"The needs on the ground are so huge and urgent, our government has decided to go beyond matching the donations raised through the Syria Emergency Relief Fund," Ms. Bibeau said.
The Conservative government established the matching fund last September. It was supposed to close at the end of 2015, but the Liberal government extended the deadline in January to Feb. 29 in hopes more money would be raised. Since then, donations from Canadians almost tripled.
Gillian Barth, CARE Canada president and CEO, said the $100-million goal was probably a bit ambitious, but added that she understood why the government set it so high.
"Maybe they set it just so they could make sure that if it did garner the kind of support that other emergencies have or even much more so, that they would have the funds to cover it," Ms. Barth said.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, Ms. Bibeau said the $31.8-million raised by Canadians is high for a long-term crisis compared to natural-disaster response. For instance, in the days and months after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, $222-million was donated to the Canadian Red Cross.
"I think we have to make the difference between protracted crisis and natural disaster. I think this is something that makes a big difference, because protracted, by definition, means that Canadians have been giving for the last five years, so it's normal that we can expect less during a short-term period," she said.
David Morley, president and CEO of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Canada, rejected any suggestion of donor fatigue in regard to the Syria crisis.
"People are willing to listen, and when they're moved as they were during the Syrian crisis, they will reach out and make a difference. So I have not found donor fatigue," he said.
The $100-million announced on Wednesday is part of the government's pledge to spend $1.1-billion over three years on aid and development support for those affected by the Syrian crisis. Ms. Bibeau said the money is ready for partners and will be provided when project details are finalized.
The government's $31.8-million in matched funds will go to UNICEF to help increase education opportunities, provide child protection services in Syria and Jordan, and support immunization efforts for children in Syria.
The remaining $68.2-million will be allocated to projects by Canadian and international partners on the ground to help provide shelter, food assistance, access to health care and water to families affected by the conflict in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
A government document specified which aid organizations will receive the Canadian funds in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. However, aside from $11.35-million for the World Food Programme in Syria, it did not name the recipient organizations in the country for security reasons.
Ms. Barth said that is the right decision.
"We have insisted that the minister and her staff be as sensitive as possible to what's going on inside of Syria," Ms. Barth said. "Any kind of public disclosure of who is receiving the monies, who they're working with, is really putting the people in that country in jeopardy."
Ms. Bibeau made the announcement in Ottawa on Wednesday, backed by non-governmental organizations including CARE Canada, Oxfam-Québec, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the government's pledge brings the Syria relief fund total to $131.8-million. The noted $68.2-million is not part of the matching fund. Rather it's humanitarian assistance in addition to it fund. This story has been updated to reflect this.