Nova Scotia·Point of View

Peace by Chocolate family overwhelmed by support after anti-immigration billboard

As part of the backlash to an anti-immigration billboard featuring Maxime Bernier's face, the Syrian refugees and founders of Peace by Chocolate have been overwhelmed by messages of support.

Messages have come in saying the Hadhads are a welcome and integral part of Nova Scotia

Tareq Hadhad says his family has received lots of support from the Nova Scotia community after encountering an anti-immigration billboard featuring Maxime Bernier's face. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Editor's note: The Hadhad family came to Nova Scotia as refugees from Syria in 2016. They have since built a social enterprise, Peace by Chocolate, which sells its products across the country and employs more than 45 people, including other refugees. The company has garnered accolades from across Canada and around the world for its dedication to fostering peace and sharing prosperity.

Emotions were high in Nova Scotia and beyond after a series of political anti-immigration billboards went up across the country at the end of last week, paid for by a third-party supporter of Maxime Bernier's People's Party of Canada. 

One of those billboards hit very close to home when it was first spotted in Halifax. Thankfully, the company that owns the advertising space has listened to public feedback and the billboards are coming down.

If you are familiar with our story, you will understand why the issue of Canadian immigration is one that is very personal to our family. Without Canada's open doors and open arms, we would not have had the chance to create a new and peaceful life, surrounded by such a welcoming and supportive community, in a safe place.

Messages of support

So to counter the hateful message being broadcast along roadsides throughout the country, we would like to share something uplifting — the messages of support that we received. 

"Just wanted to let you and your family know ... that we do not agree with that horrible, disgusting billboard," one supporter wrote in an email to us. "We are all immigrants, some newer than others, but we are a richer society here, because of everyone."  

Our social media accounts and email inboxes have been flooded with similar messages, passing on support, encouragement, and love from countless people — reminding us that the people who paid to put up that divisive and hateful message don't speak for all Canadians.

We heard from other newcomers, to descendants of European immigrants, to members of our nearby Indigenous communities, all of whom went out of their way to reinforce to our family that we are welcomed, loved and valued members of Canadian society.

In customer service it's often said that people are much more vocal about a negative experience than they are about a positive one, but these kind messages have been a nice demonstration that sometimes kind people can shout just as loudly as the hateful ones.

Thank you for shouting, friends.

About the Author

Tareq Hadhad

CEO of Peace by Chocolate

Tareq Hadhad came to Nova Scotia as a refugee after fleeing Syria with his family. He and his family founded Peace by Chocolate, a social enterprise that employs locals in Antigonish, N.S., and newcomers to Canada. He and his family are passionate about giving back to the community that welcomed them.