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Canada Three strangers can now occupy same grave at Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery

17:20  23 october  2019
17:20  23 october  2019 Source:   vancouversun.com

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a large tree in a park: Changes are coming to the city bylaws that govern Mountain View Cemetery in East Vancouver. © Gerry Kahrmann Changes are coming to the city bylaws that govern Mountain View Cemetery in East Vancouver.

Strangers in life can now become intimates in death at Mountain View Cemetery .

Vancouver’s only city-owned cemetery has historically allowed members of the same family to re-use existing graves, a practice described as rare among cemeteries in North America.

But based on changes approved Tuesday by council, that option will now be available to people who are not related. It means that up to three strangers could be stacked on top of each other in the same 4 ft by 8 ft by 9 ft vertical column in the ground.

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Glen Hodges, manager of Mountain View, said people with relatives in the cemetery shouldn’t worry that anyone is going to start burying strangers with their mom or dad.

That’s not going to happen, he said.

“This is on a go-forward basis. It’s an option for people who want to choose that,” he said. “We’re not changing the past or forcing anything on anyone.”

People may agree to share a grave because they don’t want to have a space dedicated to them forever, or they may want to reduce the environmental footprint of their burial, he said.

Sharing is also cheaper.

A single casket in a plot is $25,000, while a single interment in a shared grave is $12,500.

“With these changes council has approved, we will have the explicit ability within our bylaw to establish a different kind of interment right or grave sale where we’ll say: ‘This person doesn’t mind sharing a spot, this other person doesn’t mind, so we can facilitate the two sharing together,’” Hodges said.

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The bylaw changes create “shared interment rights.”

“Shared interment rights will allow for an individual to acquire partial rights to a space with additional right(s) being licensed by the cemetery to another individual,” a report to council says .

People who currently have family members in a grave at Mountain View cannot “subdivide” and sell their share to a stranger. All revenue from shared graves goes to Mountain View, Hodges said.

Mountain View Cemetery has been owned by the city since 1886, but the first burial took place in 1887. Covering an area of almost 106 acres, it is located west of Fraser Street between East 31st Avenue and East 43rd Avenue. The cemetery has about 92,000 graves and 145,000 remains.

The bylaw changes take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Allowing members of the same family to be buried in the same grave has been in effect since the early 1900s at Mountain View.

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“This historical practice has recently gained recognition as one of the most sustainable cemetery practices,” the report says . “Other cemeteries are starting to adopt what is referred to as ‘green burial’ practices.”

Green burial practices can include not using concrete vaults or embalming fluids and using only biodegradable materials to cover or hold the body.

Hodges said a casket is a 32-inch wide box, seven feet long and 24 inches high.

“Most of what we’re burying is air and wood with a body inside,” he said. “That takes up a lot of space.”

If a body is buried with a shroud instead of a casket, the amount of space it takes up in the ground is greatly reduced. The shroud also helps speed decomposition and the body’s return to the earth.

Changes to the bylaw also affect dog-walking.

He said the cemetery is trying to find a balance between people who don’t think a cemetery is an appropriate place for dogs and the dog owners who walk their pets in the park-like setting.

New signs will notify people to keep dogs off of turf area and pick up their pet’s solid waste.

“It’s a cemetery and we all need to remember that,” he said.

kevingriffin@postmedia.com

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