Quebec village refuses to remove swastika-emblazoned anchor from park

The municipality of Pointe-des-Cascades, Que., says it won't remove an anchor adorned with a swastika in a neighbourhood park because the piece recovered by local divers has historical significance.

Mayor says plaque will be erected explaining history of anchor recovered by divers 25 years ago

An anchor in a Pointe-des-Cascades, Que., park is adorned with a swastika. The mayor said the anchor dates back to before WW II. (Erasing Hate)

The municipality of Pointe-des-Cascades, Que., says it won't remove an anchor adorned with a swastika in a neighbourhood park because the piece has historical significance.

Last Thursday, Corey Fleischer, the founder of Erasing Hate, was called to Parc Saint-Pierre in the small village west of Montreal to remove the swastika.

Fleischer is known for patrolling the Montreal area to scrub away hateful graffiti.

But as he went to paint over the swastika, Fleischer was confronted by the mayor, who called the provincial police to have him removed from the park.

Corey Fleischer has earned a reputation as a graffiti removal specialist. His attempt to paint over the swastika on the anchor was stopped. (Corey Fleischer )
On Tuesday, the municipality said in a statement the anchor predates the Second World War and was recovered 25 years ago by divers, making it a piece of local history.

According to the statement, the anchor in what is known locally as Anchor Park belonged to a merchant vessel.

"The village of Pointe-des-Cascades does not endorse Nazism. Our village has a beautiful community and family spirit, and creates events that bring people together," said Gilles Santerre, mayor of Pointe-des-Cascades.

He has committed to placing a more descriptive plaque next to the anchor to clarify why it is there.

'It's no longer a sign of peace'

That response doesn't quell the concerns of Fleischer, who says the anchor should be relegated to a museum, out of public view.

"There is zero place for any swastikas in any public parks, right across the world," he told CBC Montreal's Homerun.

Fleischer acknowledged the swastika was originally a religious icon, representing good luck, but said that since the Second World War, its meaning has been subverted by its connection to Nazism.

"It is no longer a sign of peace. It is no longer a sign of joy."

Cathy Bonneville, who lives in Pointes-aux-Cascades, says she would have wanted Fleischer to research the reason the symbol was on the anchor, which predates World War Two, before acting. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said he believes Fleischer may have gone too far in trying to remove the symbol without consulting the village. 

But he said it was important that the municipality make the anchor's history clear to the public. 

"If you're going to display publicly the swastika, it's important to give the full context," Ouellette said.

For her part, village resident Cathy Bonneville said she was uncomfortable with someone trying to remove part of that history without understanding the context.

"I don't appreciate the fact the swastika has been taken over by the Nazis and it's a symbol that is now a negative symbol," Bonneville said. "It's been around for so long in other cultures."

The symbol has a lengthy history that predates the Nazi era. To this day, it remains in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun and Sudha Krishnan