Jewish groups say antisemitism was the reason why a bus company didn’t show up to pick up Toronto passengers heading to a pro-Israel rally in Ottawa

Screenshot from the video feed from Canada's Rally for the Jewish People, Dec. 4, 2023.

A bus company contracted provide 17 buses to transport people from Toronto to Ottawa for a pro-Israel rally on Parliament Hill failed to show up on the morning of Dec. 4—despite being paid fully in advance and confirming their participation.

“We can infer this is fuelled by a hatred of Jews and trying to prevent Jewish people from coming to a rally in Ottawa to stand up as Canadians and to fight hate,” Sara Lefton, chief development officer for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said in an interview with The CJN.

“This is a real-time example of why we need to stand up against antisemitism. This is alive and well in our country and we saw it this morning.”

The rally featured the families of those who were killed and kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Politicians, rabbis and others spoke at the national rally, organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Jewish federations.

UJA used a contractor to hire 70 buses and the contractor claimed to have worked with this particular bus company for years, Lefton said.

The company has not communicated with UJA today. (The phone number supplied by UJA was out of service when The CJN tried to reach the company.)

In the end, private cars and other buses were found for transportation to Ottawa

“We literally have students who are stranded, community members, Hillel students, high school students, who cannot get on a bus because they are Jewish,” Lefton said.

A similar situation arose in Washington D.C. last month, when buses did not arrive at the airport to transport participants to a large pro-Israel rally. In some cases, people were forced to remain on the airplanes they had travelled on and return home, without ever reaching the rally.

Aware of that precedent, UJA informed all the bus companies about the nature of the event and received confirmation that they would fufil their contracts, Lefton said.

“What happened today is sickening and outrageous,” Adam Minsky, CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said in a news release. “We will respond aggressively with every legal and public affairs tool at our disposal. UJA is already working with legal counsel and will be proceeding with strong, decisive actions against this company.”