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Swastika Trail issue resurfaces after opponents enlist help of B’nai Brith Canada

by Mike Robinson

PUSLINCH - Opponents of the name Swastika Trail are calling in the big guns to convince local councillors to change the name of the road near Puslinch Lake.

B’nai Brith Canada, a major Jewish advocacy group, has started a petition opposing the name after Puslinch residents approached the organization for help.

The group plans to present the petition to council on Dec. 20.

The road was named in the 1920s based on the ancient use of the name swastika, which was associated with good fortune.

Those opposed to the road monicker cite the more recent association of the word swastika with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party and policies of bigotry, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

Earlier this year local opponents approached Puslinch council in a bid to have the road renamed.

At the time, several councillors said they did not believe the township should be in the businesses of changing the names of private roads.

In a later decision, council encouraged the Bayview Cottagers Association to change the name, noting the township would fund up to $500 for new road signs.

In early November, members of the association voted 25-20 to keep the name Swastika Trail.

Despite the results, opponents started an online campaign/survey to convince Puslinch councillors to change the road name.

On Nov. 24, The Canadian Press reported B’nai Brith Canada is demanding that Puslinch rename Swastika Trail.

The group contends many residents on the road “are embarrassed by the street name, especially when forced to use it on driver’s licences or other government documents.”

Despite the swastika’s ancient origins, it is inappropriate for a Canadian street to bear its name because it is used as “a symbol of hatred and genocide,” says B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn in an online statement.

“In 2017 alone, we’ve seen swastikas defacing university campuses, high schools, and people’s homes across Canada,” states Mostyn.

He added, “Tens of thousands of Canadian servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice to combat Nazi tyranny. Millions more were victimized by the evil depravity symbolized today by the swastika.

“Maintaining this street name would be an insult to Holocaust survivors, and a gross disservice to our veterans.”

In September, road owner and resident Paul Wyszynski told council he considers the road name a “non-issue” and he’s more concerned about safety issues such as poor signage and trees obstructing views.

In a Nov. 24 email, Jennifer Horton, who lives on the road and is a proponent of the public survey on the issue, noted the Bayview Cottagers Association’s vote on the matter was “pretty close.”

Horton agreed local residents are not likely to come to an agreement on the issue so she and several neighbours decided to ask for public input on whether the road should be renamed.

“Since our addresses are on provincially-issued driver’s licences and federally-issued postal codes, this issue does not affect only the residents of the street,” Horton said.

She added, “Our survey indicates that a strong majority of the public finds the word swastika offensive and believes the name of the street should be  changed.”

Horton added that under the Municipal Act council has the authority to change the name of a private road, “and they should do so.”

In a telephone interview with the Advertiser on Nov. 27, Puslinch Mayor Dennis Lever said nothing has happened at the council level since September, when councillors encouraged the cottagers’ association to change the name.

Lever noted that since the cottagers’ association vote, those opposed to the name Swastika Trail “have decided to blow this up on social media.”

The mayor, who has recently fielded a number of media-related calls on the issue, confirmed the township has the ability to change the name and a staff report is coming to council on Dec. 6, with discussion on Dec. 20.

If council renames the road, residents will have to update their address information and personal documents/information.

December 1, 2017


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