A Campbell River man is taking aim at the city’s “nonsensical” cemetery rules.
Brien Dolan disagrees with the city’s prohibition of upright markers on grave sites and warned council that it’s policy may violate freedom of expression.
“Not allowing grieving relatives the right to erect a tombstone to honour and remember their loved ones is short sighted, cruel and nonsensical,” Dolan wrote in a letter to city council. “There is a reason why no other village, town or city anywhere in Canada has enacted similar legislation. It’s because the policy doesn’t make sense.”
Dolan pointed out that banning tombstones may conflict with some religions which prescribe above ground memorials.
“Many of the five major religions also mandate their members to place tombstones on the graves of their relatives,” Dolan wrote. “Alarmingly, it just might be that this bylaw violates citizen’s religious beliefs and their rights of religious expression.”
Beyond that, Dolan said he believes upright markers provide “an emotional and reflective reminder of who we are and where we come from.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Coun. Ron Kerr thanked Dolan for his letter and attempted to get council to take another look at cemeteries.
“I think it’s appropriate in light of some of the decisions we’ve made on the cemeteries recently and as some of the things that Mr. Dolan brings to our attention in his letter, that the community…enter into some conversation on how we can expect to see our cemeteries and memorial locations in the future,” Kerr said. “I think by doing this it may alleviate some of the pain and frustration that I see occurring over some of these decisions we made.”
Last month council implemented a clean-up plan to remove all mementos, other than flowers, from the graves in both cityy cemeteries. The city’s reasoning is some of the objects blow off the graves and become tripping hazards. Upright markers were already banned from the cemetery because they make it difficult for maintenance workers to cut grass around graves.
Coun. Kerr wanted council to direct the city’s Community Services, Recreation and Culture Commission to set up a sub-committee with members of the public to discuss opening a new cemetery and the feasibility of creating alternative memorial options.
City Manager Andy Laidlaw, however, told council that it went against policy to direct the commission to set up a sub-committee and that it is up to the commission to form its own sub-committees if it sees fit. Mayor Walter Jakeway suggested that council instead forward Dolan’s letter to the commission and that councillors Larry Samson, Mary Storry, and Kerr, who sit on the Community Services Commission, explain council’s interest.