Holly Trail is the new name of an infamous private road after the town council in Ontario’s Puslinch Township voted 4-1 to rename a street formerly known as Swastika Trail.
Mayor James Seeley cast the only opposing vote at the Sept. 28 meeting.
The road, in a corner of a mostly rural municipality south of Guelph and east of Cambridge, Ont., has been a controversial issue for many years.
Residents have argued for several years to have the name changed. In 2017, the council decided not to change the name, and a court refused to review the decision.
In 2021, a petition with over 2,000 signatures was read in the House of Commons by Cambridge MP Bryan May as a way of bringing attention to the issue.
But a resident of Swastika Trail for over 20 years spearheaded the long campaign for a name change.
As a delegate at the council’s most recent meeting, Randy Guzar spoke about his father, who had lied about his age and found himself fighting in Europe with the Canadian Armed Forces when he was just 17.
“I ask that you consider his service and the many that paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War Two when you make your decision,” he told council.
The swastika “is and remains the most universally recognized hate symbol in Canada. It is the go-to symbol for haters and hate crimes,” Guzar said. “As Canada continues to experience annual increases in reported hate crimes, it is critical that our community should not be seen as supportive of racism through indifference to such an odious symbol of hate.”
Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, also addressed the council meeting and asked them to recall the 45,000 Canadian soldiers who died in the Second World War.
“It seems to me such a profound disrespect for our Canadian heroes who sacrificed so much to stop the spread of Nazism,” she said. “The symbol (the swastika) has become the ultimate symbol of horror, of mass murder, of crimes against humanity and it so evocative of genocide.”
The swastika has been banned in many countries and a similar discussion is underway in Canada’s Parliament, she said.
Mayor Seeley was alone in opposing the name change, a position which he explained was due to the road being on private property and “the federal government has not banned the symbol or the word because it’s protected, maybe at arm’s length, through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Watch the section of the council meeting concerning Swastika Trail: