Manitoba

Winnipeg restaurant owner welcomes Syrian refugees with bilingual sign

A Winnipeg restaurant owner has put up a sign printed in English and Arabic on the front of his business, welcoming Syrians to Winnipeg as the first wave of refugees arrive in Canada today.

Sign at X-Cues Billiards and Cafe welcomes refugees in English and Arabic

Sal Infantino, Owner of X-Cues Billiards and Cafe has out up a sign outside his business welcoming refugees to Winnipeg. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A Winnipeg restaurant owner has put up a sign printed in English and Arabic on the front of his business, welcoming Syrians to Winnipeg as the first full wave of refugees arrive in Canada on Thursday.

Sal Infantino, owner of X-Cues Billiards and Cafe in the city's West End, says the topic of refugees has been "the conversation of the day" at his bustling cafe for weeks now.

"With all this media going on with all the people coming from Syria, I just thought it would be a nice touch that they see some people are actually welcoming them here," he said Wednesday night.

Infantino said he's tired of hearing some of the negative views about newcomers to Canada.

"Some are scared, and I don't think they have something to be scared about. I'm tired of it," he said.

'Everyone gets along great'

His customers include immigrants and refugees from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, as the restaurant is located in the West End, one of the city's most ethnically diverse areas.

"We've been here since 1969, and all we've done since then is greet all immigrants here," he said. "You come here during the day and it's all different colours and religions in here, and everyone gets along great."

Infantino said he was inspired to act on Wednesday after seeing Torontonians greeting Syrians at the airport with signs printed in their language.

"That made me think that it welcomes them and they see something familiar. We wrote it also in their language so they would see it and feel like they're welcomed here," he said.

Infantino said a friend from Syria helped him write and design the sign. It's only been up a few hours, but people have noticed.

"So far, we've gotten a great response," he said.

"They were actually very impressed with me going out of my way to do this … because I've treated them like family and we want to treat the new people also," he said.

Wants others to welcome newcomers

Infantino wants others to consider the circumstances the refugees are fleeing before they pass judgment.

"I've known the suffering that's happened with my other customers, refugees from other countries, and I just know that what they went through was real hell," he said.

"We have the greatest country in the world and I'm very proud to represent us."

Infantino said he also thinks about his own parents, who came to Canada from Italy 50 years ago and struggled without knowing the language or the country.

"It's going to be a big shock to them. Forget about the weather, which is absolutely crazy for them to even think about thirty below," he said.

"They've come out of a war, which is even worse."

Infantino said he believes if more Winnipeggers join him in giving the newcomers a warm welcome, it will go a long way.

"I just wish everyone welcomes them," he said. "The more welcome someone feels, the more they'll produce. I just hope to make them feel welcome and hope they fit in."

Clarifications

  • Since publishing this story, CBC has learned the original sign displayed at X-Cues Billiards and Cafe had errors in its translation of "Welcome to Winnipeg" into Arabic. The owner said he plans to correct the sign.
    Dec 11, 2015 7:01 AM CT

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