A ques­tion of author­ity in ceme­tery mat­ter

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - (sic) News

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.”

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