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

Cold case hunters take on search for man who went missing from Chilliwack

Kristofer Couture’s car was found at Chilliwack trailhead in January but there’s been no sign since

Education Minister to make announcement in Chilliwack Friday

Visit points to possible support for arts-and-technology school at former UFV site

High death rate at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Abbotsford has the worst-performing large hospital in B.C. on key safety measure

Prolific offender charged in Chilliwack break-and-enter

Ifraz Shamil Khan also charged with flight from police and apprehended in Yarrow Dec. 5

Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel offers warm, helping hand this Christmas

The Royal Hotel is collecting donations of gloves and mittens for those in need this holiday season

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

BC Hydro offers tips as collisions with power poles increase

Region with the largest spike in collisions was the Lower Mainland at 16 per cent

Most Read