The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) now formally supports altering the province’s cremation and burial legislation after council supported a proclamation to include alkaline hydrolysis, or “aquamation,” in the Cemetery, Interment and Funeral Services Act of British Columbia.
The proclamation was made Nov. 7 in response to a letter to all B.C. local governments from the Aquamation Initiative, an alliance lobbying for the change. In the letter, the group cited aquamation’s smaller environmental impact compared to traditional cremation, which it said emits huge amounts of carbon; and burial, which requires large tracts of land.
As the name suggests, aquamation is a comparitively eco-friendly technique that uses a mixture of water and a strong alkali, such as potassium hydroxide, to process human remains.
It is currently permitted in four other Canadian provinces and territories: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.
The Aquamation Initiative has sent letters to all other municipalities in B.C. pushing for the change, and according to Gail Mitchell of the Cowichan Aquamation Initiative (which sent the letter), they have so far received positive responses from two local governments, which have passed proclamations in support.
“Although this may seem a low number, we are encouraged to know that we are spreading the word about Aquamation. The 2024 convention of the Union of BC Municipalities will be the event for a resolution to support Aquamation. We will be following up with key municipalities with this in mind,” she said in an email to Pique.
“Our goal is the legalization of this process in B.C. We believe that as more citizens learn about this alternative to fire-based cremation, there will be incentive for our government to alter the necessary legislation.”
The RMOW will forward its formal proclamation of support back to the Initiative.
It was a blast from the past on Nov. 7, with council receiving minutes from the RMOW’s Transportation Advisory Group—except the minutes were from May 2022, almost a year and a half ago.
Councillor Cathy Jewett had some thoughts.
“One of the things that we have to look at in the governance committee is getting this information into the public sphere quicker,” she said. “My sense is that things shouldn’t go over a year; there should be a deadline. Otherwise what happens is you have a completely different group of people [on the committee the next time the committee sits] that would not have been at the meeting.”
Staff explained the long delay was due to the committee not meeting until recently (Oct. 23) to review the minutes, but added there were new processes to ensure past minutes were reviewed and released sooner going forward.
Jewett said she was pleased there was progress, but still cracked a joke in backing up her point. “As a history aficionado, I appreciated reading the minutes as well,” she said to some laughs in the room. “It was a different time—we were in the middle of a transit strike when that meeting was held.”
According to staff, the minutes from the most recent Transportation Advisory Group will be before council before the end of the year.
RMOW dodges light-up requests
Mayor and council turned down a pair of requests this month to light up the Fitzsimmons Bridge connected to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The first initially asked the municipality light the bridge in white and blue in support of the Jewish community and in response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war (later revised to remove reference to the war, and changed to recognize upcoming Hanukkah). Another asked it be lit up in the colours of the Palestinian flag to recognize those who have died in Gaza.
In comments responding to the requests, Mayor Jack Crompton kept the RMOW out of it.
“Bridge lighting really isn’t the venue we use for acknowledging religious occasions or governments,” he said.
“For residents who are interested in celebrating Hanukkah, please do attend the menorah lighting that is at the Whistler Public Library on Dec. 10.”
Council voted to receive the lighting requests, but took no further action.