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Residents taking Swastika Trail decision to court

by Advertiser staff

PUSLINCH - It appears the issue of renaming Swastika Trail is not going away anytime soon.

Residents in Puslinch have launched a judicial review of township council’s decision to retain the name of the private road near Puslinch Lake in the southwest corner of the township.

“These courageous residents of Puslinch have our full support in their ongoing efforts to see justice done,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, in a press release.

On Dec. 20 council voted 4-1 to retain the name, supporting the results of a November vote of the Bayview Cottagers Association (BCA), which includes residents on the 800 foot-long road.

The judicial review was announced on April 11 by B’nai Brith, a major Jewish advocacy group that became involved in November after some Puslinch residents approached the organization for help.

The review application alleges the November BCA vote was “unfair and biased” and did not follow the BCA’s own rules and that, by supporting its results, Puslinch Township “failed to exercise its authority under the Municipal Act, improperly delegated its responsibility to render a decision, and unlawfully fettered its own discretion.”

Named in the 1920s, the trail recently became embroiled in controversy, with some residents advocating the name be changed. They contend that despite the origins of the name, which was associated with good fortune, the swastika’s later association with the Nazi party made the name unacceptable.

At the Dec. 20 meeting Puslinch Mayor Dennis Lever called the street name “a very emotional issue” with a “big divide between the two sides.”

Lever, who noted Swastika Trail is a private road owned neither by the township nor most of the residents living there, voted to retain the name.

“I don’t believe that any of the residents who voted to keep the name are hateful or feel that in any way the name is disrespectful,” Lever said.

Councillor John Sepulis, the only member of council to vote in favour of the name change, said the issue has caused  unnecessary strife within the community.

“It will continue to fester and flare up ... unless we address it and change the name,” he said in December, adding this is not strictly a BCA matter.

“It is a Puslinch issue, and affects how the township is viewed by others,” Sepulis said.

Judicial reviews, often the last resort for those questioning government decisions, aim to ensure those decisions follow the law and that the government’s delegated authority is not misused. Courts can decide not to hear an application for judicial review, but if it proceeds there are several possible outcomes, including sending the decision back to the township or forcing it to follow its duties.

 

April 13, 2018

 
 

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