Post-secondary students led a rally for Israel in Montreal—while both Concordia and McGill are now facing lawsuits alleging failures to combat antisemitism

A pro-Israel rally at Concordia University in Montreal on Nov. 16, 2023.

Hundreds of university students, faculty and community members gathered at Concordia University on Thursday to show their support to free the hostages being held in Gaza—while standing in solidarity against the recent slew of antisemitic incidents in Montreal.

A synagogue and Federation CJA building were firebombed overnight on Nov. 6, and two Jewish schools were shot at in the same week. No one was injured during the attacks. Montreal police have reported 104 hate-motivated incidents towards the Jewish community since Oct. 7.

Hosted by university group StartUp Nation, the event featured live music and student speakers. A heavy police presence after pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students clashed at Concordia a week earlier.

“I stand here today with tons of members of the Jewish community of Montreal with my face showing, with my Magen David out, with my flag out, because I am not terrified by you, and I am proud of who I am,” said one speaker from McGill University, who nonetheless did not want their name published—which was typical of students The CJN spoke to at the rally.

Demonstrators chanted “Bring Them Home” regarding the hostages, while the sidewalk was lined with photos of hostages as well as red balloons and stuffed animals.

“I think there’s two messages here today,” Federation CJA hed Yair Szlak told The CJN. “One is, of course, to stand with Israel—I think the message of freeing the hostages is critical.

“But I think there’s one message here that needs to be loud and clear and that is that our Jewish students are not alone.”

Meanwhile, two Jewish students and one faculty member have filed a $15-million class action lawsuit against Concordia University, alleging a lack of effort to combat campus antisemitism over the past two decades.

The lawsuit, obtained by Le Journal de Montréal, states that students were attacked on campus on Nov. 8 during a rally to free the hostages, while also detailing a 2002 riot that occurred during an appearance by Benjamin Netanyahu. (The document notes a Holocaust survivor was among those injured.)

Additionally, the claim described the university as negligent in efforts to train teachers and staff to ensure student safety, investigate antisemitic incidents on campus, and enforce disciplinary measures for antisemitic actions against Jewish students.

The suit seeks $10 million for general damages and $5 million for punitive damages. None of the accusations have been proven in court, and the motion awaits a judge’s approval to move forward.

Last year, a Jewish student filed a lawsuit against McGill University, its student society and a pro-Palestine group on campus. Details were recently added to that claim in light of developments over the past six weeks.