'We're glad you’re our neighbour': Signs of support sprout in Elmira
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Monday, February 13, 2017 4:03PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 13, 2017 6:20PM EST
There’s a new yard sign craze in Elmira, and it has nothing to do with house sales or political parties.
In the middle of the sign is the message ‘No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbour.’ Above and below those lines are translations of that message in French and Arabic.
While the signs are part of a burgeoning North America-wide movement, Elmira seems to be ground zero for their introduction in Waterloo Region.
They’ve been hammered in outside homes, churches and even Elmira District Secondary School.
Sandra Bair has one on her lawn. She says she felt it was her way to “make a contribution” in response to anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States and the shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six people dead.
“Diversity is our strength as Canadians,” she says.
Many of the signs in Elmira come from the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, where David Martin and his team have printed 200 and – after realizing how much demand there was for them – ordered 200 more.
“No matter who you are, this is a statement you can make – that we want to welcome our neighbours,” Martin says.
Martin learned about the signs a few weeks ago, while at a conference in Indiana. (In most American communities, the third language of choice is Spanish, not French.)
“When we looked at that, we just said ‘This needs to happen in Canada. This is a no-brainer,’” Martin says.
“My hope is that we’ll see these signs popping up right across the country.”
Independently, Reverend Sue Campbell at Elmira’s Trinity United Church heard about the same sign program through a friend in Kitchener.
She ordered 20 of the signs, and mentioned them in a sermon. That night, the project took on a new urgency for her congregation when six people were killed in a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.
“For me, it was important to send a message of welcome and inclusiveness,” Campbell says.
Campbell has since ordered 50 more of the signs.
“It’s a simple symbol, but I think it’s an important one,” she says.
“I’ve been concerned about the rhetoric coming out of the States – the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Like Martin, Campbell says news of her sign campaign has drawn interest from people around Ontario and across the country.
Bair doesn’t have those connections in the faith community, but has heard plenty about her sign from her neighbours. None of the response has been negative, and some people have asked where they could get welcome signs of their own.
“I think Elmira is a community with a social conscience,” she says.
The signs are available through either church for $10, which is what it costs the church to obtain each sign.
With reporting by Marc Venema