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

WATCH: ‘Stubborn’ fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

The building, which lit up in flames around 2 a.m., was an infamous spot to Big White locals

Warriors looking for Teddy, hoping for win

West Kelowna hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss fundraiser Saturday night

Price for one-bedroom rentals in Kelowna jumped 10.8% from October to November

Out of 34 Canadian cities, report said Kelowna had highest monthly rent increase

Rockets drop second straight, conclude 6-game road trip Saturday in Moose Jaw

Kelowna fell short against the Regina Pats 4-3 Friday night

Province covers medical costs for Kelowna boy with spinal muscular atrophy

Spinal taps for Rumi Green’s spinal muscular atrophy treatment cost $120,000 each

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Kootnekoff: Accommodating religious celebrations

Employers must be mindful that not everyone celebrates holidays which are days off

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Most Read