Petition to have Swastika Trail renamed reaches Ottawa

Swastika trail, Puslinch Township, Ont.

A petition asking the federal government to condemn the street name Swastika Trail has gained more than 2,000 signatures and will be read in Parliament.

The reading of the document on the floor of the House of Commons could happen as early as the week of June 21.

Started in April by Puslinch Township resident Randy Guzar and political strategist Warren Kinsella, the petition asks the Trudeau government to work with provincial and municipal authorities to remove the offensive street name.

“We’ve had a very good response to the petition, and we are very happy about that,” Guzar said in an interview. “Hopefully, the government will recognize the unspeakable pain this name causes people and will respond accordingly.”

Swastika Trail is in a corner of Puslinch Township, a mostly rural municipality south of Guelph and east of Cambridge, Ont. The street was named in the 1920s when the swastika was still seen as a symbol of peace and good luck in some Asian and Indigenous cultures.

Guzar and his supporters argue however that meaning was changed forever when the symbol was adopted by the Nazi party and incorporated into the flag that flew over concentration camps.

“This symbol is bound by cords of steel to racism and hate,” Guzar added. “It’s a name that is not fit for a modern Canada.”

This is Guzar’s fourth campaign against the name of the street where he has lived for 20 years. The most recent effort, between 2017 and 2018, ended when a court refused to review the way Puslinch council decided not to make the requested change.

Guzar said the latest effort has been met with a stony silence from councillors, a position he simply cannot understand.

“It looks like council has definitely not, unequivocally not changed its view, but we are steadfast in our position as well,” he said. “We would love to work with council on this, but they just refuse to meet with us.”

Despite its silence in response to Guzar, reported council went into a closed-door session with its lawyer on May 26 on the street name.

Puslinch Mayor James Seeley did not respond to a request for comment.

The text of the petition declares “the swastika is an odious and hateful symbol most readily associated with the nefarious Nazi regime” and is hurtful to the victims of the Holocaust, including Jews, the LGBTQ+ community, Romani people, and many others.

Specifically, the petition’s 2,046 supporters want Ottawa to “Work with the appropriate level of government to take every available measure to ensure that the ‘swastika’ is changed in any public place where it is used as a sign, symbol, or name in such a manner where it will, or is likely to, expose Canadians to hatred, insults, or disparages the dignity of any person or group due to their race, religion, nationality, ancestry, or place of origin.”

The effort is sponsored in Parliament by Liberal MP Bryan May of Cambridge.

In an email exchange, May said he will table the petition in Parliament “hopefully within the next five days.” From there the government has 45 days to respond.

Although municipal affairs are strictly a provincial jurisdiction, May said petitions to Parliament are a useful way of bringing public attention to a question.

Guzar and supporters have promised to carry the issue into next year’s municipal elections if they do not win in this effort.

“We need elected officials who are raised in common sense, decency and Canadian values,” he said. “They need to understand that if you are not dedicated to removing hate from your community then you are sort of contributing to the problem.”

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