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The Welcome Bar is a crunchy vanilla cookie with a milk chocolate coating. Image: Peace by Chocolate/Edits Rame Abdulkader

The University of Ottawa’s Refugee Hub has partnered with a Canadian chocolate factory to develop a sweet way to raise funds and help welcome newcomers to the country.

The Welcome Bar, developed by the Nova Scotia-based company Peace by Chocolate, is a new initiative designed to raise funds for The Refugee Hub while encouraging support for newcomers to Canada.

The Welcome Bar, composed of “crunchy vanilla cookie crumbles enveloped by smooth & creamy milk chocolate” is meant to signify Canada’s diversity and act as the ultimate sweet welcome to Canada.

“Proceeds from the sale of the bar will go directly to the Refugee Hub,” said the hub’s senior development officer Amy Coulterman. “But the main goal of the bar is to spread a positive message about the contributions newcomers bring to Canada and that welcoming newcomers makes this country stronger.”

Peace by Chocolate is a Canadian chocolate factory run by Tareq Hadhad and his family, who are former Syrian refugees. 

In 2012, a bombing in Damascus, Syria, demolished the Hadhad family chocolate factory, forcing the family to flee to a refugee camp in Lebanon, according to Peace by Chocolate staff member Tracy Butcher. 

The Hadhad family immigrated to Canada and went on to found Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, N.S., where the bar is made and then shipped to Ottawa for sale.

“When Justin Trudeau opened the refugee program in 2016, allowing groups and churches to sponsor refugees to Canada, a group in Antigonish, SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace), said that they would like to sponsor a family,” said Butcher. “The Hadhad family went through the whole governmental process and Tareq, our founder and CEO, was the first to arrive in Canada in late December before the rest of his family followed in January.” 

Butcher went on to explain how Peace by Chocolate’s decision to partner with the Refugee Hub came at a time of great divide within Canada.

“When (a company) put up billboards that said ‘Say NO to mass immigration,’ it received a lot of backlash. Here at Peace by Chocolate, our emails got flooded with messages of support telling us that they were happy for us being here,” Butcher said. “We decided that there should be a way for us to work with a program to say Canada welcomes refugees.”

Peace by Chocolate wanted to work with an organization that had the most reach, according to Butcher. After speaking with SAFE, the organization which sponsored the Hadhad family into Canada, they were made aware of the Refugee Hub.

The U of O’s Refugee Hub works to provide protection and rights for refugees through their research, community involvement, and partnerships, directly engaging in a broad spectrum of issues that currently face refugees.  

“For the Hadhad family, The Welcome Bar that we’re making in partnership with The Refugee Hub is a symbol of welcome and a means to combat hate,” said Butcher.

Jennifer Bond, founder and managing director of The Refugee Hub and a U of O law professor, expressed her excitement for the partnership. 

“We both share a similar mission and belief that welcoming newcomers makes this country stronger — plus, who doesn’t love chocolate?”