“Tonight marks the beginning of Passover, or the Festival of Unleavened Bread – an eight-day observance during which time Jews refrain from eating leavened grain.
“Passover commemorates the Exodus and liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. As the Israelites fled, the bread they had baked did not have time to rise. To commemorate the Exodus from ancient Egypt, Jews eat matzah – flat, unleavened bread.
“Over the next two nights, Jewish families and friends across Canada will gather to share traditional seder meals which include symbolic rituals and foods, such as the reading of the Haggadah and the asking of the Four Questions to contemplate the story of Exodus; eating bitter herbs to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the ancient Israelites; and the hiding of the afikoman, a half piece of matzah, for the children at the seder to find.
“Passover provides a meaningful opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the importance of freedom, family, tradition and faith. It is also a time to think about those around the world who still struggle for basic rights and freedom.
“Canada is fortunate to boast a strong Jewish community that has played an integral role in creating and maintaining our pluralistic society. Indeed, the Jewish community has always championed Canadian values, including democracy, the rule of law, pluralism and, of course, religious freedom.
“As Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I extend my best wishes to Jews everywhere as they celebrate Passover.
“Chag Pesach kasher v’sameach.”