Canada takes pride in its multiculturalism and its role as a welcoming home for immigrants from diverse religious backgrounds. The Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of thought, belief, and expression to all Canadians, regardless of their immigration status. Similarly, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Charter prohibit discrimination based on religion.
The Jewish Population in Canada
According to the recent 2021 census conducted by Statistics Canada, there are 335,295 Canadians who identify as Jewish by religion. Between 1980 and 2021, over 91,000 Jewish residents in Canada were immigrants. Israel, the United States, Ukraine, Russia, Morocco, and South Africa contributed to nearly 62% of Canada’s immigrant Jewish population.
The Canadian Jewish community is primarily concentrated geographically, with over 98% residing in five provinces: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Alberta. Toronto is home to almost half of Canada’s Jewish population, while Montreal hosts approximately one-quarter.
The Exodus is a significant event in the formation of the people of Israel and symbolizes freedom, liberation, and redemption.
According to the Book of Exodus, God sent ten plagues upon Egypt when the Pharaoh refused to release the Jewish people. The final plague resulted in the death of Egypt’s first-born sons, except for the Jewish children who were “passed over.” This plague finally convinced the Pharaoh to allow the Jewish people to leave.
The timing of Passover varies each year, as it is determined by the lunar-based Hebrew calendar. The holiday typically lasts for 7 or 8 days, depending on family traditions.
One of the central Passover rituals involves removing all leavened food products, known as chametz, from the home before the holiday begins and abstaining from consuming such products throughout the duration of Passover. Instead of bread, matzah is eaten during this time. According to tradition, the Hebrews had to flee Egypt so hurriedly that there was no time for their bread to rise.
Passover Celebrations in Canada
The first and last days of the holiday hold particular significance, involving special blessings, prayers, synagogue attendance, Torah readings, and ceremonial meals.
The celebration of Passover begins with the Seder, a ceremonial meal that takes place on the first two nights. The Seder consists of obligatory prayers, blessings, readings, songs, and the consumption of symbolic foods. The Haggadah, a book recounting the story of the Jewish people’s escape from Egypt, is used during the Seder. The final day of Passover also includes a Seder meal to mark the conclusion of the observance.
While Passover is not recognized as a public holiday in Canada, most Jewish businesses and organizations close during the holiday to observe this significant period.
Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement commemorating Passover, emphasizing the celebration as an opportunity to honor Canada’s Jewish community and acknowledge the substantial contributions Jewish Canadians have made and continue to make to the country.