MONTREAL, Canada (JTA) — Despite a foot of snow in Montreal and chartered buses that never showed up in Toronto, thousands of Canadian Jews assembled on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday to voice solidarity with Israel and decry a rise in antisemitism.
The rally’s speakers included several prominent Canadian politicians, Jewish leaders, college students who feel unsafe on campus and family members of Israelis taken hostage or killed by Hamas on October 7.
Local Jewish leaders called the event, organized by Jewish federations across Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a historic gathering. But 17 of 70 chartered buses did not show up to pick up rally-goers in Toronto, just weeks after a similar incident in Detroit before a massive pro-Israel rally in Washington.
Organizers called the no-show bus company antisemitic.
“Despite charging in full in advance and confirming its participation, the company did not send a single bus and has declined all communications while refusing to provide any explanations,” said Adam Minsky, president and CEO of United Jewish Appeal Federations in Toronto.
“We are driven to the view that this shameful decision is intended to disrupt our peaceful rally out of hatred toward Jews,” he added. “What happened today is sickening and outrageous. We will respond aggressively with every legal and public affairs tool at our disposal.”
Israel’s ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed, Liberal Party member of parliament Anthony Housefather and deputy Conservative Party leader Melissa Lantsman all spoke on Monday.
“This is not 1943. I’m grateful that Israel exists and has an army to fight back against those who launched this pogrom,” said Housefather, who is Jewish and represents Montreal’s heavily Jewish Mount Royal district.
Raquel Look, whose son Alexandre was murdered at the music festival in southern Israel attacked by Hamas on October 7, called on Canadian politicians to take more action against antisemitism. Hate crimes against Jews — including multiple incidents that have involved Molotov cocktails thrown at Montreal-area synagogues and Jewish centers — have spiked across Canada.
“Our sorrow is deep and immeasurable, but today we want to channel this immense pain into a call for action,” Look said. “Please let us honor his memory by standing up against the forces that seek to destroy Jewish and Canadian values we hold so dear.”