Swastika Trail residents in Puslinch, Ont. fight for street name change
Resident says people assume they’re white supremacists
A group of people in Puslinch, Ont. find it uncomfortable to tell others where they live — from applying for a driver's license to inviting people for dinner — because they reside on Swastika Trail.
"The reaction is consistently, without exception, one of shock and dismay and disbelief that there is a street named Swastika Trail," said Randy Guzar, who has been living there since 2000.
The street was named in the 1920s when the crooked cross symbol originating in the Indian subcontinent became popular and was celebrated for representing positive spirituality, long before Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party adopted it as their icon.
Over the years, concerned residents have tried to get the street name changed but were unsuccessful in their attempts, he said.
They then turned to a Jewish advocacy group, B'nai Brith Canada, which has started a petition to call on the Township of Puslinch to change the street name during an upcoming council meeting on Dec. 20.
"At the end of the day, if the municipality refuses to change it, that would be, I think, a great mark of shame for the people involved," said Aidan Fishman, the interim national director of the league for human rights at B'Nai Brith.
However, not everyone is on board.
Jennifer Horton, who has lived there since 2009, suggested people who oppose renaming the street still recognize the swastika as a symbol of good fortune, as it was known before the Second World War. But she also thinks that point isn't strong enough to warrant keeping the name because white supremacy groups continue to use the symbol.
"Our point is that you can't reclaim the swastika. [Its bad reputation] wasn't over at the end of the war, it continues to this day."
Repercussions of name
Having uncomfortable conversations over where they live is only part of the problem for residents.
Horton said her neighbour's son once got into trouble at school because he wrote the word "swastika" at the school playground, without knowing the history of the word and symbol.
Parents were called to the office and he was almost suspended.
Another resident on the street once had her eBay purchase denied by the seller because the seller was Jewish and thought the resident was a white supremacist.
It was not an isolated incident.
"People assume that we are bigoted and white supremacists," Audrey Guzar said.
For people questioning why someone would purchase a home on that street, Horton said real estate agents falsely told residents they didn't have to use the street name Swastika Trail, they could substitute the rural route address.
So she tried that, but Canada Post and other government agencies rejected it.
"We all got letters saying you have to use your street name and your street address on your postal address and on your driver's license," Horton said.
Right now the group is focused on getting the issue discussed by the township council next month. Horton is prepared to continue the fight if results then aren't favourable.
"If the council for whatever obscure reason decides to turn down our request, it won't be over."