Puslinch council has voted 4-1 in favour of retaining the controversial name of a road in their township.
Swastika Trail, established in 1922, will remain the name of a road on Puslinch Lake despite an effort by some residents to have it changed.
“This is something we have to worry about as a society with all those pictures of hate crimes going on,” said Swastika Trail resident James Horton, who wanted the name changed. “We’re kind of leaving the door open in our community to say we support this (road name), so that means we think a certain way.”
The push for the name change drew nationwide attention and forced Puslinch council to hold its regular meeting at the Puslinch Community Centre to accommodate a larger-than-expected crowd. Two Wellington County police officers were among the group of about 50 who attended last night’s meeting, which turned out to be a passionate but civil debate.
Council listened to 14 different delegations over almost two hours before deliberating for about 15 minutes on a motion to force a name change of the private road, a power granted to municipalities under the 2001 Municipal Act.
In the end, though, council deferred to an earlier vote by residents of Swastika Road, which showed 25 of the road’s 45 inhabitants wanted to keep the existing name. In making its decision, council indicated it felt it would be doing a disservice to democracy by overturning the residents’ vote.
A vote to change the name of Swastika Road would be “disrespectful to the very essence of what great countrymen fought and died for,” said councillor Susan Fielding.
“I think for me what was so important was that it was named well before the war. When does this stop?” asks Swastika Trail resident Rudy Hofer. “This (the road) was named before the Nazi Party rose to power. So I’m pleased that we have retained the name but I’m really disappointed with how it’s fractured the neighbourhood.”
Swastika Road was first named by Ross Barber, who bought the property in 1922. In 1938, Barber would rename Swastika Beach to Barber’s Beach but the road name has always remained.
Despite Wednesday night’s ruling, it may not remain permanently.
“I have a letter from the Ontario government that says a swastika (personalized) license plate or the word swastika in a public place is a human rights discrimination,” explains Horton. “I fully plan on following up on that with the Minister of Transportation and ask why I have a driver’s license with the word swastika on it when I couldn’t have a license plate.”