Ottawa church fights racism with lawn signs welcoming refugees

First United Church in Westboro is trying to fight negativity and racism toward refugees with lawn signs. The signs say 'No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbour," in English, French and Arabic.

Church printed 200 signs to visibly communicate welcoming tone

Brian Cornelius is the minister of First United Church in Westboro. He said the signs are a visible statement to make refugees feel more welcome in Ottawa communities. (CBC News)

A church in Westboro is trying to use lawn signs to build community and combat negativity and racism being directed towards refugees in both Canada and the United States. 

First United Church printed 200 signs that read "No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbour," in English, French and Arabic.

Rev. Brian Cornelius said the church has helped community groups in Ottawa sponsor about 100 refugees and the signs are a visible way to fight some of the recent negativity seen and heard in the United States.

"Canada is not exempt from that rhetoric," added Cornelius. 

"We recognize that we do have incidents of racism, that we have to deal with prejudice in our own society and so we just want to be a part of being that voice of welcome."

Volunteers sold the lawn signs following a service at First United Church on Sunday. (CBC News)

Wendy Snelgrove is a member of the congregation who bought a sign for $10 following a church service on Sunday. 

She said her family wanted one because they are proud of the work being done in Ottawa.

"I don't know whether they're needed in a sense of overcoming something negative but they're a great statement, a great symbol that we really do value the contributions that refugees and other immigrants bring, that people truly are welcome," she said.

Similar campaigns elsewhere

Lisa Nafziger first brought the idea of the signs to the church after seeing similar campaigns in the United States and southern Ontario.

With all the work First United Church has done to help sponsor refugees, she said the signs were a good fit, and a way to make a public statement without being political.

"Make it clear that we're happy, that diversity is a positive thing, that having neighbours from all over the world and from diverse places is great and that we're happy to get to know our neighbours and welcome everyone to the community."