Sir: Recently, a letter to the editor was published regarding the new Municipal Cemetery By-Law 38-2016 that was approved by council on March 21.
Unfortunately, the writer provided a personal interpretation of this bylaw that has caused a great deal of confusion and stress for local interment rights holders.
The writer is of the impression that the bylaw section regarding abandoned graves is unique to Chatham-Kent and suspects that the municipality is planning to reclaim unused graves for resale.
This is simply not true. This is not a business practice being considered for use nor has it been done in the past.
This bylaw is a provincial statute that applies to all cemeteries in Ontario and is intended for larger communities that find their existing cemeteries at, or approaching, capacity. It has been disclosed in Chatham-Kent bylaws for many years, as well as with the former Town of Blenheim’s Evergreen Cemetery Bylaws, where the graves the writer has referred to are located.
Cemetery frontline staff expend a great deal of compassion and time with clients to ensure they understand the best route to achieving their often-immediate needs. Cemetery staff is definitely not in the business of creating barriers to people at such a stressful time, and work with families to assist with the required process and ensure their wishes are carried out.
The process to transfer or use graves that an applicant does not own is very transparent and is in accordance with provincial inheritance law. Anyone with a valid ownership claim will have no difficulty transferring lots. Proof of being an estate trustee (executor), or being a direct heir, along with a sworn statement and a transfer fee (in cases of ownership change), will satisfy requirements in most situations. When the applicant is a direct beneficiary of the original owner of the lot, cemetery staff will also provide the statement form to assist with the process.
The Cemeteries By-Law and Interment Policy are available for review at here, or can be obtained directly from the cemetery office. It is strongly encouraged that questions regarding the municipality’s bylaws or interment policy be directed to the cemetery office at 519-360-1998 to avoid further confusion.
Manager, Parks & Open Spaces
Municipality of Chatham-Kent