A question of authority in cemetery matter
BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL
Staff A local resident recently addressed South Glengarry council, hoping that a history lesson would help settle the Grinley Hill Cemetery governance matter.
“We understand and fully support the township wanting to be free of this cemetery but merely wish for them to make the transfer to the cemetery committee,” Wiliamstown resident Ian Cumming told council November 19.
“This committee, in the eloquent penmanship of John Sandfield Macdonald at the registry office, when my great-grandfather was one of the signatures, states the cemetery shall be maintained by, ‘successors of said trust, free from all encumbrances.’”
During the October 15 regular meeting, council opted to request the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) to transfer its licence obligations for the burial ground to Knox United Church of Lancaster.
The church has owned the land on which the cemetery is situated since 1911.
In 1992, the Grinley Hill Cemetery, and four other graveyards, came into the former Charlottenburgh township’s possession via a provincially-mandated abandonment process.
The other four “abandoned” cemeteries are inactive, but the township continues to provide grasscutting and trimming for the sites.
However, Grinley Hill Cemetery remains an “active” burial ground – run for more than 90 years by the Grinley Hill Cemetery Committee, which the province mistakenly believed was operating it under the municipality’s licence.
Lachlan McDonald, South Glengarry’s general manager of corporate services and treasurer, said in October “the township was unaware of this activity until 2015” when a BAO officer conducted a site inspection, and was “unaware that the province considered the operations to be conducted under the township’s licence” until this year.
Mr. McDonald added that the church leaders could “decide what to do with both the land and the operating licence” once the province responds to the township’s licence transfer request.
Mayor Ian McLeod informed Mr. Cumming that the township did not have the authority to transfer ownership of the cemetery to the committee, or anyone else.
Not the owner
“All we’re doing is advising the provincial government that we are not the owner of this cemetery,” said Mayor McLeod.
“I certainly appreciate where you are coming from, but council’s position is that we do not own and we do not operate the cemetery.”
When Mr. Cumming responded that the abandonment process wasn’t done at the behest of the threemember cemetery committee, Mayor McLeod reiterated that council “can only say that we are not involved in that.”
The mayor added that Mr. Cumming’s concerns would be referred to township staff who will come back to the new council, with a report, “at a subsequent meeting, likely...in January or February, allowing them time to do some research.”