The town council in Puslinch, Ont., voted 4-1 in favour of keeping the name of a southern Ontario street called Swastika Trail, despite protestations from some local residents and Jewish groups.
The issue was brought to council over the summer by residents who felt the name of the street was “a difficult and offensive name to be associated with.”
About two months ago, the neighbourhood association voted 25-20 to keep the name.
In November, B’nai Brith Canada and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) began pressuring the town council to change the street’s name.
B’nai Brith Canada launched an online petition last month, saying that, “Despite its ancient origins, the swastika is unequivocally a modern symbol of racism, hatred and death.”
FSWC noted that by the 1920s – when the township, which is located about 75 kilometres southwest of Toronto, named the street – the swastika was already used by the Nazi party as its symbol.
A street name that is associated with a symbol of hatred, discrimination and pure evil.
– Daniel Koren
According to Steven Heller, author of The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?, Adolf Hitler adopted the swastika as the Nazi party’s emblem in 1920.
In an open letter that FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo wrote to Puslinch’s mayor and councillors the day before the Dec. 20 vote, he said, “It’s already a national shame that residents of your community are beholden to a name representing a symbol that was utilized in the murder of nearly 10 million people in concentration camps and more than 40,000 Canadian soldiers who went to fight the Nazis – not to mention over 100,000 Canadian soldiers who were injured during the war.”
Following the vote, B’nai Brith Canada spokesperson Daniel Koren said he was disappointed by the result.
“Council had a chance to lead by example and do the right thing, but instead chose to maintain a street name that is associated with a symbol of hatred, discrimination and pure evil. We feel for those residents of Swastika Trail who remain troubled by this offensive name, and we will continue to be there for them.”