A road named Swastika Trail in Puslinch, Ont. (B’nai Brith Canada)

Court allows Ontario township to keep road name of ‘Swastika Trail’

‘There is no basis for finding that council’s decisions were unlawful’

An Ontario township was within its rights to maintain the name of a street called Swastika Trail, despite the passionate objections of some residents, Divisional Court has ruled.

In its decision, the panel found no reason to interfere with Puslinch council’s votes against changing the name of the private road.

“Council’s decision was evidently disappointing to the applicants and likely does not accord with the beliefs of many Canadians,” Divisional Court said in its ruling. “(But) there is no basis for finding that council’s decisions were unlawful.”

Swastika Trail, near Puslinch Lake in central southwestern Ontario, was named in the 1920s. The road is owned by a private corporation controlled by Paul Wyszynski, one of the 54 residents who live on it. However, the trail runs into a municipal road and is used as a public thoroughfare.

In response to several complaints about the name, the township asked staff in June 2017 to report on a possible change. Staff recommended a change with the consent of residents on the road but Wyszynski opposed any change.

Council did pass a resolution to “encourage” the Bayview Cottagers Association — comprising 82 members, 54 with homes on Swastika trail — to consider a renaming but a majority of the organization voted to keep it.

After hearing from several delegations at a heated meeting in December 2017, council voted 4-1 against any name change.

Two residents, Randy Guzar and William Knetsch, sought a judicial review of the township’s actions. They and others in the area argue the swastika is a symbol that has “represented hatred, white supremacy and anti-Semitism” since the Second World War.

Guzar, who has lived on the road for the past 18 years, said he associates the swastika with the bigotry and genocide of the Nazis.

“He does not want to be linked with the symbol, and he says that when he presents his driver’s licence or health card, he is routinely asked if he is a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi,” court said in its decision.

Among other things, Guzar objected to how the cottagers association held its vote, including distributing a pamphlet about the positive history of the swastika before the Nazis used it.

Legally, he and Knetsch argued council had illegally based its decision on what the association wanted. The township argued it made its own decision. Divisional Court sided with the township.

“There is no doubt that, to many people in Canada in the 21st century, the swastika is an abhorrent symbol, reminiscent of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis,” the court said. “However, the discrete issue raised on this application is whether council for the Township of Puslinch acted lawfully when it voted not to change the name of the road.”

READ MORE: Swastikas removed from pictures of French Holocaust survivor

On that point, the court said, the record clearly shows council did not simply defer to the cottagers association but considered various options before deciding as it did.

In the war era, the city of Berlin, Ont., changed to the existing Kitchener, while the community of Swastika in northern Ontario changed to Winston. However, residents of Swastika, named in about 1908, objected and the original name was kept.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

UPDATE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, traffic being re-routed

Salvation Army will help 500-plus students with school supplies

Ridge Meadows Ministries taking registrations and raising funds

Coles-Lyster hits podium during Superweek

Maple Ridge cyclist to compete at Pan American Games

Sands wins another grueling uphill race

Maple Ridge woman holds record for the Grouse Grind

Classic cars on display in Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge

Vintage Car Club holds show next to Haney Farmers Market

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Most Read