Ceme­tery land dis­pute heads to court

Lo­cals con­test cor­po­ra­tion’s own­er­ship of Mt. Pleas­ant prop­erty

Bayview Post - - News -

A group of mid­town res­i­dents, dubbed the Friends of Toronto Pub­lic Ceme­ter­ies (FTPC), is ask­ing the prov­ince to re­claim ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 acres of land across the GTA that is gov­erned by a pri­vate not-for-profit cor­po­ra­tion called the Mount Pleas­ant Group of Ceme­ter­ies (MPGC).

Mount Pleas­ant Ceme­tery, a large swath of green­ery that stretches from Yonge Street to Bayview Av­enue, was opened by MPGC in 1876. The le­gal bat­tle will de­cide its fate, along with nine other lo­ca­tions op­er­at­ing un­der MPGC’s man­age­ment, in­clud­ing York Ceme­tery in North York.

Mar­got Boyd, founder of FTPC, ar­gued that all of MPGC’s land hold­ings be­long to the trustees of the Toronto Gen­eral Bury­ing Grounds (a pub­lic trust) ac­cord­ing to an 1849 statute that was never re­pealed. Since then, it has evolved, some ar­gue wrong­fully, into the pri­vate en­tity MPGC.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued by John Thi­bodeau, spokesper­son for MPGC, the not-for-profit was in­cor­po­rated by a spe­cial act of the On­tario Leg­is­la­ture in 1871 that made MPGC the owner of the land ac­quired up un­til that point, and other statutes au­tho­rized MPGC to ac­quire ad­di­tional ceme­tery land over the years.

Boyd con­tested the claim and said the pub­lic should be con­cerned that the man­age­ment of the land is hap­pen­ing be­hind closed doors.

“MPGC can do what­ever they want with that land. They need to be­come ac­count­able and trans­par­ent,” she said. “I think we need to do an au­dit be­cause there are ex­tremely large sums of money in­volved, and we don’t know where they’ve been go­ing.”

In the state­ment, MPGC in­sisted its “own­er­ship of the ceme­tery prop­er­ties has been clear and beyond dis­pute for nearly 150 years” and said it would be “lu­di­crous” to sug­gest MPGC would ever sell or re­de­velop the land with 600,000 in­di­vid­u­als in­terred through­out it.

FTPC and MPGC will both plead their cases to the On­tario Su­pe­rior Court of Jus­tice on Aug. 20 and 21.

FTPC held a com­mu­nity meet­ing on May 14 that was at­tended by coun­cil­lor Kristyn Wong-Tam, of Ward 27 Toronto Cen­tre-Rosedale, who is a coap­pli­cant on the case as a pri­vate cit­i­zen, and coun­cil­lor Josh Mat­low, of Ward 22 St. Paul’s.

Mat­low said he be­lieves the city should de­clare an in­ter­est in the case and asked city staff to re­port to the gov­ern­ment man­age­ment com­mit­tee on the mat­ter for June 5.

MPGC has stated the land will re­main pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble re­gard­less of the case’s out­come.

Mar­got Boyd at the Yonge Street en­trance of Mount Pleas­ant Ceme­tery

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