Cemetery land donated to city hits roadblock
Officials unable to accept 23 acres at Yonge-Sheppard due to pending lawsuit by Samantha Peksa
The Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) wishes to donate 23 acres at York Cemetery near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue to the City of Toronto. However, the city has determined it is unable to accept the land until litigation between MPGC and the Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries (FTPC) is resolved.
Although Toronto City Council voted to accept the donation in late May, staff was later informed of the pending lawsuit. A request to terminate the offer was received by the government management committee on Nov. 13, but was withdrawn afterward.
Rick Cowan, assistant vice-president of marketing with MPGC, said the cemetery operator understands the city wants to tread carefully so they have extended their offer to donate the land until March 2018.
“It’s a wrinkle, but we know that the city is ready to take these lands on,” said Cowan. “We’re hopeful that all of this gets put to bed, so we can all move forward.”
Margot Boyd, of FTPC, has maintained that MPGC does not have the legal authority to convey the land as it already belongs to the public. If the city were to accept, Boyd argued it could have larger implications concerning the rest of MPGC land in question.
“We are gratified to know that the city is taking seriously the fact that there is litigation pending and that the title is not clear. The conveyance is not cut and dry, and they can’t do anything until the courts make a decision,” she said.
In 2013, FTPC asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to determine if MPGC’s board is legally constituted. It is their belief that the land MPGC claims to be in possession of actually belongs to a public trust. The legal battle is still underway.
Councillor John Filion, of Ward 23, Willowdale, said his ward has unfortunately been caught in the crossfire.
“It’s disconcerting that this legal proceeding, which really has nothing to do with these lands, would stop the transfer from going ahead,” Filion said.
He said he is concerned with how long the process may drag on for, especially since all parties seem to agree the city should own the land.
“The litigation has been going on for years, and I have no idea how long it might go on for,” he said. “But regardless of what the outcome is, there’s nothing that would stop the city from receiving these lands [in the end].”
A court date has not yet been scheduled.
“We’re hopeful that all of this gets put to bed, so we can all move forward.”