Lawn signs with welcoming message pop up around Winnipeg
All money raised through sale of signs goes to Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, Esther deGroot says
A Winnipeg woman says she wants to show that everyone is welcome in her city, one lawn sign at a time.
Esther deGroot is selling lawn signs with the words "No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbour" printed in three different languages as a fundraiser.
As the signs started popping up on lawns across the city, deGroot — who grew up in an immigrant family and recently moved to Winnipeg after spending nine years in Haiti — is hopeful the gesture will help Winnipeggers embrace diversity and make newcomers to the city feel a little more welcome.
"If you put the signs on your lawn I think it opens up the possibility for a conversation with somebody who is maybe more scared or maybe who doesn't know about the ... challenges that people have in the countries that they're leaving and the benefits that there are for Canadians when we have a multicultural society," said deGroot.
"I just think if we didn't have this diversity, this would be a very different and a very boring place."
Signs started in U.S., since spread around the world
The idea for the signs came out of a church in Harrisonburg, Va., which set up the signs in August 2015 to share a positive message in the midst of a national dialogue they felt was negative about immigrants.
The idea has since spread around the world, according to the website where deGroot was able to download her own version of the signs to print off here in Winnipeg.
DeGroot first saw the signs during a recent trip to Toronto this summer and said she knew immediately she wanted to see them in Winnipeg.
"I thought that's what I want people to see on my lawn," deGroot said.
After printing off 120 signs at the end of August, deGroot started selling them at local events. She's already sold around 70 and is now selling the signs for $10 out of her home in St. Boniface.
David McPherson put the sign up in his front lawn. He said it's something he wanted to do to because of recent events around the world and in Winnipeg, including anti-Jewish graffiti that was found on a sidewalk near his home in the Wolseley neighbourhood.
"Those are things that when they're very close to you — like within 50 feet from your front door — you start to be concerned about," he said.
"My concern was that individuals, be they people born in this country or other countries, can frequently be made to [feel] like outsiders and I think… that fear can breed hate and distrust. It's important to not let that hatred and fear and mistrust grow."
'We have a responsibility'
Alyson Shane lives in Wolseley and called the sign on McPherson's lawn a welcome sight, especially after she says she's seen racist graffiti popping up around the West Broadway neighbourhood recently.
"Messages like this are the reason that I live in this community," she said. "I don't want to live in a society where other people feel unsafe… We have a responsibility to step up and make sure people feel included."
The Winnipeg version of the signs are written in English, Arabic, and French, but they can also be printed in Japanese, Hindi, and Chinese. DeGroot said she is hoping to find help getting them translated into an Indigenous language as well.
With files from Caroline Barghout and Samantha Samson