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High cost of burial troubling

Squamish councillor says it shouldn't be

By Vivian Moreau

Corinne Lonsdale doesn’t think the cost of being buried in Squamish should financially break a family.

“I just know that when people pass away that it’s a trying time for families and when it does cost a lot to have a loved one laid to rest — I’m troubled by that.”

Councillor Lonsdale spoke up at recent District of Squamish council meeting, concerned over staff recommendations to raise burial fees by almost 60 per cent for the district’s Mt. Garibaldi cemetery in Brackendale. Lonsdale said the district should only be recovering costs not making money from the cemetery.

District staff had asked for cemetery bylaw 1532 to be amended to allow for the use and sale of cement liners in rocky areas of the cemetery, to restrict ornamentation on graves and to increase rates.

At present the price for a plot, for its opening and closing, and for installation of a memorial and a liner, is $1,650 for an adult. Staff recommended a 58 per cent increase that would bump costs to $2,831.

Councillor Greg Gardner questioned the district’s costing, asking why 29 hours are allocated per burial. Bob Kusch, director of recreation, parks and tourism, who also oversees the cemetery, said rocky terrain and staff hours needed to open and close a plot accounted for the time.

Lonsdale also asked what could be done to give the cemetery some character.

“Our cemetery is very clean and it’s very neat,” she said after the meeting. “But we don’t allow any of the headstones to stand and there isn’t a space in the ground for vases to be placed.” Lonsdale raised a motion that passed to ask that staff look into the cost for holes to be dug for vases.

Whistler is also looking into increasing rates for its municipality-owned cemetery on Alta Lake Road.

Shannon Story says although burial rates were raised from 2003 through this year to cover costs of a new scattering garden, the municipality is still not recovering costs. Currently the municipality charges about $3,500 for an adult to be buried.

Squamish fees are inexpensive compared to North Vancouver, which charges $4,900 for a comparable burial. But Lonsdale doesn’t think that should be a factor.

“Quite often we’re busy comparing ourselves with the Lower Mainland and sometimes we have to do that but I don’t know that we have to do that when it comes to the cemetery.”

Lonsdale was the only councillor opposed to the amendment, which passed third reading by a 6-1 vote. The cemetery bylaw amendment will be brought forward for adoption at the Oct. 17 council meeting.