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A few hundred Jewish people on their way from Toronto to Ottawa for a protest were abandoned when over a dozen drivers did not show up, with protest organizers accusing the company responsible for driving the buses of antisemitism.
“We were shocked that, of more than 70 buses UJA booked, 17 did not show up,” United Jewish Appeal (UJA) president and CEO Adam Minsky said in a statement on Tuesday. “Those 17 buses were the responsibility of a particular subcontracted company.”
“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 explanation,” Minsky explained.
“Given the absolute silence of the subcontractor and with no other explanation, we are driven to the view that this shameful decision is intended to disrupt our peaceful rally out of hatred toward Jews,” he added, calling the act “sickening and outrageous” and promising to take legal action.
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“Hate and discrimination against any community can never be tolerated in Canada,” Minsky declared.
Demonstrators gather in support of the Jewish community on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Dec. 4, 2023. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)
Some of the bus attendees suggested that police should investigate the incident as both a theft, due to the money spent on hiring the buses, and a possible hate crime. One attendee told the Toronto Sun that the situation “smells” because “there were no weather issues,” claiming that “it’s obvious what happened here.”
UJA identified the subcontractor as Prestige Worldwide Transportation Network LLC, which the Toronto Sun revealed is owned by Mohammed Ashfaq.
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UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Chief Development Officer Sara Lefton told the National Review that the group reached out to the company but has only received radio silence.
Demonstrators hold signs as they gather in support of the Jewish community, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Dec. 4, 2023. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)
“They will not speak with us, they will not speak with the contractor, and there were hundreds and hundreds of members of the Jewish community, including young students who are already scared, stranded in a parking lot in the dark,” Lefton said.
“Now they understand that there’s a possibility that they were not picked up because they are Jews,” she added. “Think about what it would be like for other vulnerable communities: If you play it out, what would that look like?”
Some of those stranded on the buses compared the incident to a similar one that occurred when some Detroit-area Jews were stranded after landing in Washington, D.C., when the bus drivers failed to turn up due to a “sick-out.”
Children make a snowman as demonstrators gather in support of the Jewish community, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Dec. 4, 2023. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)
The passengers got on their buses at Dulles International Airport only to get back off the buses just 15 minutes later when someone told them the buses were not meant for them.
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A separate bus company that did pick up some of them suggested the broker responsible for booking the buses failed to contract enough vehicles and used the “sick-out” excuse to hide their mishap.
An estimated 290,000 people attended the Washington, D.C., rally against antisemitism in November. Around 20,000 showed up in Ottawa outside of Canada’s parliament on Monday.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.