The Fight to Change ‘Swastika Trail’: The Gloves Are Off

Full Canadian Jewish Record story here.

July 14, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

A new campaign to change the name of Swastika Trail in the township of Puslinch, Ont. will seek to defeat local councillors in the next election who don’t support the effort.

Veteran political operative and anti-hate activist Warren Kinsella has joined the campaign by Township residents who have been trying for years to get the name changed.

This time, however, the gloves are off, Kinsella warned in an interview.

“We are saying to the politicians, ‘if any of you continue to defend this, we will run campaigns to defeat you in the next election. We will make sure that everybody knows you were indifferent to this hateful name being attached to this street,’” Kinsella said.

“It’s not a threat, it’s a promise,” he added. “If you guys are going to let lthis foul, disgusting name continue to be associated with this street, then we’re going to make sure people know you didn’t do anything about it when you could have.”

Kinsella, a Toronto lawyer, former Liberal Party strategist, founder of the anti-hate group Standing Against Misogyny and Prejudice (STAMP) and head of the Daisy Group consulting firm, joined the latest anti-Swastika Trail campaign at the request of long-time resident, Randy Guzar.

STAMP’s past efforts include helping to bring criminal convictions against the publisher and editor of Your Ward News, a free Toronto newspaper that promoted hatred against Jews and women.

Guzar has lived on Swastika Trail for more than 20 years and has seen at least four previous efforts to get the name changed.

The street was named in the 1920s when the swastika was still widely considered an ancient good luck symbol. The private road, owned by a numbered company, is in a mostly rural corner of Puslinch Township, south of Guelph in Wellington County. About 35 families live on the street.

Swastika Trail

The most recent effort to get the name changed started in April 2017 and ended in June 2018, when an Ontario court refused to review a council decision not to change the name.

Guzar and others went to court to challenge how the matter was handled by the council, which had asked the local cottagers association to decide whether to change the name. The association voted 25-20 to keep it, and Puslinch council vote 4-1 against changing it.

The court’s three judge panel, which found that the council had acted correctly, ruled: “There is no doubt that to many people in Canada in the 21st century, the swastika is an abhorrent symbol, reminiscent of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during World War Two. While council’s decision…likely does not accord with the beliefs of many Canadians…there is no basis for finding that council’s decisions were unlawful.”

Since then, however, three of the five township councillors, including the mayor, have changed. More importantly, both Kinsella and Guzar argue there have been major changes in public attitudes about racism and hatred.

At the same time, there has been a spike in incidents of antisemitism around the world – the centuries old hatred that found its fullest modern expression under the Swastika flag of Nazi Germany.

“What has happened is that the murder of (George) Floyd) and the whole the Black Lives Matter movement has really awoken people to the importance of tolerance issues generally,” Kinsella said.

Warren Kinsella

“For the Jewish community, given the massive outbreak in antisemitism and vandalism, this is the least this community can do. We’re not asking them to give us money. We’re not asking them to do anything other than be decent human beings and remove this name.

“There’s no time in human history when I’ve seen a greater popular response to racism and bigotry than there is right now,” he added. “What has happened this spring, in the middle of a pandemic, is extraordinary and that tells us we’re on the right side, that people are with us and we just have to make them aware of what is happening.”

Guzar argues that while the swastika may be an ancient symbol, it is too closely linked to Nazi-era atrocities ever to be rehabilitated and “does not belong in a multicultural, diverse and tolerant Canada.”

“The swastika is the symbol of the most homicidal expression of hatred that ever existed. It is the literal embodiment of racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia and genocide,” he said. “This is a modern Canada and it’s time that this name be retired.”

Despite changes on council, Guzar said he doesn’t sense a change in attitude.

“From the very first when we started our effort to retire this street name we have had no support from the township and that’s the current flavor today,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in council’s indifference to this name and their use of tax dollars to defend it in court. We would expect our council to stand up and condemn hatred and change this street name.”

In an e-mail exchange Puslinch Mayor James Seeley “politely” refused to comment. Paul Wysznski, whose company owns the road, could not be reached for comment.


Rain

Still my fave Fabs song. The morning after he was killed, the guys across the hall in res had this playing on the radio, and that’s when I lost it.

Everything is perfect on this. Ringo’s un-Ringo-like beat-keeping, McCartney’s bass line, Harrison’s Eastern influences starting to influence the band, Lennon’s genius in running some of the tape of the guitar and vocals backwards. Just brilliant, all of it. And a B-side!

What we lost when we lost him. It can’t be quantified, because it is too immense.


My latest: Conservatives circa 2020 = Liberals 2004

Politics is like rock’n’roll: everything has been done before.

Take the Conservative Party, for example (please). Their leadership contest is ripping their party apart.

The Liberals did it first, however. Jean Chrétien won the Liberal leadership in 1990, and he won majority governments in 1993, 1997 and 2000, too. But Paul Martin and his cabal didn’t care.

They wanted Chrétien gone. So when Chrétien had a minor health scare, Martin’s minions hissed to compliant reporters that Chrétien was dying. When he didn’t die, they pounced on every misstep – and there weren’t many of those, frankly – and muttered darkly to compliant reporters.

When the sponsorship mess happened, Chrétien called in the cops. He cleaned house. His government was supported, as a result, by 60 per cent of Canadians.

Again, the Martinites didn’t care. Once Chrétien retired, they decided to hold an inquiry into sponsorships. One of them – now, amusingly, a “political analyst” for Bell Media – said: “This public inquiry is going to pin it all on them.”

Instead, Chrétien fired off a few golf balls into the epicentre of the inquiry and Martin’s PMO, collapsing both. The Liberal Party of Canada would thereafter spend a decade in the political wilderness – because Paul Martin and Co. called in the cops on their own political party.

Some 16 years later, Erin O’Toole has decided to do the same thing. A few days ago, the Conservative leadership candidate’s team made a formal complaint to the RCMP.

Alleging criminal conduct by Peter MacKay’s leadership campaign.

The allegation is that some factotums in MacKay’s operation got access to top-secret recordings of meetings in O’Toole’s operation. Super-duper secret stuff was purloined, it is alleged.

To regard this as a crime, of course, we would need to first believe that the O’Toole leadership campaign had ideas that were worth stealing. That is a big assumption, we know, but let’s assume they did and they do.

So, the RCMP, as they always do, confirmed they’d received the criminal complaint. As they always do, the Mounties said they were talking to some people about the allegations. And, as always, they haven’t said anything else, because the RCMP don’t like to be used as political pawns.

But let’s also assume, for a minute, that the Mounties actually charge members of MacKay’s inner circle. Does that mean the former Nova Scotia cabinet minister couldn’t still win the Tory leadership?

No. He could still win it, and he’d thereafter be pursuing a scorched-Earth campaign against all things O’Toole. And the beneficiary would be Justin Trudeau.

Or, let’s imagine that O’Toole’s gambit doesn’t work, and MacKay’s team are exonerated. The above scenario would be the same: a bloody purge of O’Toole and his gang by the victorious MacKay folks, and Justin Trudeau riding the resulting Conservative civil war to another majority victory.

Or, try to imagine that O’Toole somehow wins. (Hard, we know, but try.) MacKay and Co. will remain on the sidelines, for years, sabotaging everything O’Toole tries to do. Winner? Justin Trudeau.  

Take it from a veteran of the Chrétien-Martin leadership wars – whose nadir, as now, was one camp calling the other camp criminals – these things never end well. Back then, the main beneficiary was Stephen Harper. This time, whichever way it goes, it’ll be Justin Trudeau.

When the Martin guys did what they did, we Chrétien guys commenced hating their guts. Some of us still do. Deeply. That tends to be the reaction when someone falsely accuses you of a crime.

Anyway: if a crime has been committed, let the cops do their job. But don’t use the criminal law as a political club.

Erin O’Toole could have saved himself a lot of trouble by simply calling Jean Chrétien and asking for advice. I know what le petit gars would’ve said, too.

He would’ve said this: politicize your differences, Erin.

Don’t criminalize them.