Green Burial Nova Scotia | A Celebration


Since our November 2nd media launch, Green Burial Nova Scotia has received some wonderful press coverage including....

Please share with your communities the exciting news of the green burial movement in Nova Scotia, and point anyone you know to the places to find out more....

And join us at the Ecology Action Centre on November 14th at 6:30 pm for a pot luck celebration.  You can pick up GBNS brochures to distribute in your communities at the same time.

Copyright © GBNS 2018 All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
5-3045 Robie Street #163, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3K 4P6


Approved Provider Announcement and 10th Anniversary

The Green Burial Society of Canada is honored to acknowledge November 6, 2108 as the 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY since Royal Oak Burial Park completed it’s 1st Full Green Burial in the The Woodlands. Please join us in congratulating them or requesting a tour of The Woodlands- Green Burial Section of the Cemetery at


To honor this Monumental day for ROBP the Green Burial Society of Canada would like to also Congratulate Royal Oak Burial Park on becoming an APPROVED PROVIDER in the Green Cemetery-Large Classification!



The Green Burial Society of Canada is pleased to announce the launch of the GBSC Certification Program.


Starting Monday, September 17th 2018, we will be accepting applications from cemeteries across Canada for certification as a GBSC Approved Provider.   


Every Canadian cemetery offering green burial services is eligible to apply for certification. We offer four levels of certification, ranging from Green Burial Service Provider to Green Burial Conservation Cemetery. 


We respect the many differences between the provinces, territories and regions of Canada, including community traditions and prevailing legislation. The GBSC’s Approved Provider standards are based on the key elements of green burial, whatever the location.  


APPLY TODAY:  Three steps to apply:

·         REVIEW the ‘GBSC Approved Provider Criteria’ to determine the appropriate category for your cemetery. This document includes a Glossary of Terms to assist you;

·         COMPLETE the ‘Approved Provider Application’ and submit it to the GBSC via: , then:

·         REVIEW the ‘GBSC Statement of Ethical Practices’ which every Approved Provider will be required to sign and post at their cemetery office.


·        After an application has been received, it will be reviewed by the GBSC Committee responsible for vetting and approving applicants.

·         Every application will be acknowledged within 2 weeks of submission.

·         Applicants will be contacted by a member of the Committee familiar with the applicant’s region or province for a brief interview and confirmation of the information contained in the application.

·         After successful vetting, the application will be submitted to the GBSC Executive Committee for formal approval.

It is a GBSC goal to vet and approve applications within 8 weeks of receipt.

What will my cemetery get from becoming a GBSC Approved Provider’?

Your cemetery will:

·         Join a growing network of Green Burial cemeteries across Canada that are demonstrating progressive leadership and positive environmental stewardship in your community;

·         Be part of a 100% Canadian organization, created exclusively for Canadians. Founded and led by Canadians, with Canada-wide representation and membership, the GBSC reflects Canadian values and concerns. GBSC fees will be collected in $CAD and retained for GBSC use in Canada; 

·         Receive community and nation-wide exposure through a listing on the GBSC website. This includes reaching out to families seeking green burial services. (The GBSC website currently averages more than 2,000 new visits each month);

·         Gain access to the GBSC’s green burial resources, including Best Practices updates, and subject matter experts that can assist your cemetery as it provides and expands its green burial service options;

·         Receive an Approved Provide Certificate, suitable for posting in your cemetery office, and the use of the GBSC logo on your website.


Annual General Meeting of the Green Burial Society of Canada

On Wednesday, April 4 the Green Burial Society of Canada (GBSC) held its 6th Annual General Meeting.  The meeting was truly a pan-Canadian event with representation from coast-to-coast.  Attending the meeting were the Board of Directors, regular members of the GBSC and many ‘friends’ of the GBSC. 

         Special guests attending the meeting included the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati who delivered a heartfelt and sincere welcome message to the GBSC and, Diane Buckner and Marc Baby from CBC Canada who were present to film the AGM as part of a green burial story they were working on for the CBC National news broadcast

         The cross-Canada nature of the meeting meant that it was held in a format that combined a dial-in teleconference (hosted from the GBSC HQ in BC), a two-way audio-video link (hosted through the City of Niagara Falls MuniWorks Platform) and an in-person component held in Niagara Falls at the Fairview Cemetery Main Administration Building.  There was a combined attendance, over the various formats of participation, of 90+ individuals.

            Board members provided updates on the green burial cemeteries currently operating in Canada, green burial cemeteries anticipating opening within the year and active green burial cemetery initiatives underway in other communities across Canada.  There are now solid plans, in various stages of development, for 25+ new green burial cemeteries across Canada.   Some of these sites ‘in progress’ will join Canada’s already operational green burial cemeteries in 2018 and more will become operational in 2019 and beyond.

President Erik Lees presented to the attendees the ‘GBSC Approved Provider Criteria’ and the ‘Approved Provider Statement of Ethical Practices’. This program is intended to provide direction to and recognition of Canadian cemeteries opening a green burial section in an existing cemetery or establishing a new, stand-alone green burial cemetery.  Subject to some final refinements the GBSC has set a goal of rolling out this program by mid-summer of 2018.

Erik Lees, noting that this was his last meeting as President, thanked all those he had worked with during his two-terms, as the first president of the GBSC, to get the GBSC established and built on a solid foundation of green burial leadership and credibility.  He spoke of a promising future and growing opportunities for the success of the GBSC and his belief in the mission of the GBSC to spread the message of green burial across Canada.  Erik will continue to serve, as past-president, on the GBSC board of directors.

Following the presentation and review of a nominations report, and after a call for further nominations, the Board of Directors was elected by acclamation.   The new officers of the GBSC are: President, Catriona Hearn; Vice President, Stephen Olson and Secretary Treasurer, Gordon Ropchan.  A complete list of the current GBSC Board of Directors can be viewed here:”.

            Newly elected President Catriona Hearn shared her vision for advancing the GBSC mission.  Catriona noted that the GBSC was founded by a small but passionate group of people, working in disparate disciplines, who shared a common cause - to advocate for and provide sensible, environmentally sensitive end of life options for those facing death and bereavement.  She noted it has been encouraging to see that what began as a western-centric organization has now expanded and consolidated to become the beginning of a truly pan-Canadian association.  Building on what has already been achieved the GBSC future will be focused on guiding principles true environmental sustainability and empowering people across Canada to bring authentic green burial to their communities.

            Following the adjournment of the ‘official business’ portion of the AGM an extended and wide-ranging Q&A session was held.  The GBSC Board of Directors takes this opportunity to thank everyone who attended the 2018 AGM. 

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The  2018 Annual General Meeting

of the

Green Burial Society of Canada
#509 - 318 Homer Street Vancouver BC V6B 2V2

will be held on

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
12:00 p.m. (noon) PST / 3:00 p.m. EST

This year’s Annual General Meeting will be held in Ontario.

We invite you to join us :

A:    In Person:

Fairview Cemetery, City of Niagara Falls

Main Administration Building

4501 Stanley Ave,

Niagara Falls, ON L2E 2E8


Click on the City of Niagara Falls’ Muniworks (audio-video link):

Note: this will require you to download the City’s secure app. - only takes a minute


Dial the conference line: Dial: 1 877 733 5390

When prompted, enter Conference Code: 2516407911#

The video conference and teleconference lines will be available 15 minutes in advance (11:45 a.m. PST/2:45 EST). The meeting will commence at 12:00 p.m. (noon) PST/3:00 pm EST.

The AGM Agenda and a full meeting package will be circulated via email and posted on our website Monday, March 26, 2018.

We look forward to having you join us!


Link to AGM 2018 Documents


Grand Opening of Niagara's First Green Burial Section at Fairview Cemetery

Grand Opening of Niagara’s First Green Burial Section at
Fairview Cemetery

Niagara Falls, ON, September 14, 2017 – The City of Niagara Falls is pleased to announce the Grand Opening of the Niagara’s first Green Burial Section at the Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls. The community is invited to the Grand Opening event on Saturday, September 23 starting at 1:30 pm, at Fairview Cemetery (4501 Stanley Avenue).  Mayor Jim Diodati and members of Council, along with sponsors will bring greetings to the attendees and perform a ribbon cutting.  Other volunteer members of the public will participate in the planting of 10 ceremonial trees at the cemetery.


Cemetery Services is working closely with the community to create a naturalized location to host green burial opportunities.  Many partners have invested in the initiative, including a $25,000 grant through CN’s EcoConnexion grant and $40,000 from Land Care Niagara.  Other sponsors, including Tree Canada, The Park in the City Committee, Sassfrass Farms, Yardmasters and the Green Burial Society have contributed to the project.  A tree planting ceremony will take place to commemorate the support of all involved.


Green, or natural burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.


Residents, who are interested in buying a plot can call the Fairview Cemetery at 905-354-4721 for pricing and location.




For more information, contact:

Mark Richardson,
Manager of Cemeteries Services
City of Niagara Falls

Phone: 905-356-7521 ext. 5301

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Summer So(u)lstice at Royal Oak Burial Park

Taken from an article in the Times Colonist

If someone suggested an afternoon at the cemetery, your first thought likely wouldn’t be: “Hey, that sounds like a good time.”

Victoria artist Paula Jardine hopes to change your mind about that. She’s a Canadian pioneer in a rarefied field: the creation of community events honouring the dead through art.

Jardine is artist-in-residence at Royal Oak Burial Park, where today there will be free public entertainment — and yes, even a good time — on offer.

Summer So(u)lstice will offer a rollicking New Orleans-style brass band, a harpist and a choir. Wandering clarinetists will play in the woodlands and at a mausoleum. Poets will pen personalized poems for the public. There will even be vintage car display and refreshments.

It’s the eighth year Summer So(u)lstice has been held at Royal Oak Burial Park, one of the largest cemeteries in Western Canada.

There are just two annual events like this in the country — the other is the All Souls sacred celebration at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.

Both are overseen by Jardine, their founding organizer. She’s the only cemetery-based artist-in-residence in Canada curating such occasions.

“It’s quite unique,” said the veteran artist, who has created community-art happenings of all sorts for decades.

Summer So(u)lstice isn’t your typical outdoor party. The central intent is to honour the dead with dignity and respect. Loved ones are memorialized in an enjoyable, uplifting — and even fun — manner through art. As well as music, and poetry, the event features the creation of personalized artworks: Summer So(u)lstice visitors are encouraged to write tributes to the departed on “memory flags” hung along terraces).

Between 150 and 200 people attend Summer So(u)lstice each year. Some have friends and/or family members buried at Royal Oak, the only not-for-profit municipal burial park in British Columbia.

Others come to mourn loved ones interred or cremated elsewhere.

A Psychology Today article once identified death as the No. 1 taboo subject in America.

Jardine says Summer So(u)lstice breaks through the traditional reluctance — and even fear — many North Americans feel about discussing death and mourning.

“This is something we really need. It’s a social event where it’s OK if you’re crying, because the person next to you is probably crying too,” she said.

“But there’s also going to be laughing and drinking tea,” Jardine added, noting some families even bring picnics.

She first got the idea of social events honouring the dead after attending her own father’s funeral in Edmonton in 1995.

Jardine found it a disappointment: sterile, drab and alienating. “There was no beauty involved. Just this kind of gothic, weird, expensive experience,” she said.


Before her father’s death Jardine had organized an annual event in Vancouver called Parade of Lost Souls. It was a community procession on Halloween through the back alleys of the Commercial Drive area. The intent was to “reclaim” Halloween as a sacred event to honour the dead.

The disappointment with her dad’s funeral — and her experiences with Parade of Lost Souls — led to her founding A Night for All Souls at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery in 2005, followed by Summer So(u)lstice in 2010.

In preparation for A Night for All Souls, Jardine studied international memorial and funeral practices. She’d also travelled to England on a Canada Council grant to meet with artists doing funeral-related work.

Jardine’s interest in artistic responses to death date back to 1971. She performed a parade led by the artist ManWoman at the Edmonton Speedway, doing a “death dance” in a skeleton costume.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in grieving and memorializing for art and beauty … I think that’s a fundamental impulsive, to completely embrace the dead with beauty,” she said.

Her interest in creating opportunities for personalized responses to death extends to her own life.

When Jardine’s mother-in-law died last April, her daughter and husband hand-built the casket. The family had the body at home for a time before her interment at Royal Oak Burial Park.

Jardine has already planned her own funeral. She’d like to be buried in a biodegradable box on on Saturna Island. There will be a garden gate with a sign that says: “Everyone welcome — step through.”

She’d originally wanted have a tree planted on the grave as well.

“I wanted to have an apple tree, so I could feed my great grand-children on my gave. I’d be literally feeding them. That was my idea.”

However, Jardine has since changed her mind about that detail. The decision came after she placed some of her late grandfather’s ashes at the roots of a gooseberry bush as a living tribute.

“It bore a lot of fruit the first year. But I found I couldn’t quite put that in my mouth.”

Royal Oak Burial Park hosts other public events. There’s the annual Little Spirits Vigil for families who’ve lost babies. There’s also a Mother’s Day event in which carnations are given out.

Crystabelle Fobler, Royal Oak’s new executive director, says the park is considering a new venture that’s increasingly popular in North America. It is a “death café,” to be hosted by a funeral director.

“People are getting together over tea and cookies, just talking about death,” she said.

When Jardine tells new acquaintances she’s artist-in-residence at two cemeteries, they’re sometimes surprised.

Yet it’s anything but a conversation-killer. “People are so relieved to talk about it,” she said with a smile, “so I hear everyone’s death stories.”

© Copyright Times Colonist - See more at:

Mountain View Cemetery

From the Vancouver Sun 


Mountain View Cemetery's grave ready for family's third generation

More from Gordon McIntyre

Published on: March 15, 2017 | Last Updated: March 15, 2017 1:48 PM PDT

The Grayston family grave in Mountain View Cemetery, bought in 1907 upon the death of 41-year-old Jennie Grayston. It was later where Donald Grayston's father and grandfather were buried. Now, 77-year-old Donald says when his time comes he will be laid to rest in the same grave. 

When Donald Grayston’s time comes, he’ll be going home in a sense.

Grayston, 77 and suffering a degenerative lung disease, will be buried in the same grave his dad was 25 years ago and that his grandfather was 75 years ago.

“I was at a Mountain View Cemetery workshop and one of the subjects was reburials,” Grayston said. “I found the idea interesting and appealing, appealing from at least two points of view: One was financial, the other was ecological, environmental.

“My time is short, I don’t know how short, but I’m aware of the ecological situation and I want to be ecologically responsible as far as I can.

“This seems like a good way to do it.”

Grave reuse is one of the components of a green funeral, which generally refers to allowing a body to decompose naturally: No burial vault or grave liner, no embalming, a biodegradable casket.


Cremation, on the other hand, viewed by many as environmentally friendly and chosen by millions of people the world over, requires a lot of energy to turn a body to ash.

“The idea is not to try to preserve the deceased’s body, accepting that our bodies are natural and will decompose like other things,” said Michelle Pante, co-founder of Willow, which provides end-of-life coaching and workshops.

“Mountain View is unique, particularly in not requiring grave liners.”

Mountain View Cemetery manager Glen Hodges said that while rare in North America, the practice of grave reuse is common in Europe and elsewhere.

Grave reuse is rare in North America, but the practice is common in Europe and elsewhere, Mountain View manager Glen Hodges said.

The New World has lots of land and it hasn’t been until recently that cities like Vancouver and Toronto have faced a shortage of cemetery space, he said.

“Europe’s been burying people for thousands of years, as opposed to 150,” Hodges said. “We’re a young country.”

Mountain View, which had its first burial in February 1887, comprises 43 hectares (106 acres) and is nearing 150,000 interred souls.

It’s almost unique in North America in not making grave liners mandatory.

“How that started, no one really knows, it’s just always been the case,” Hodges said. “Mountain View just always had this practice.”

Of 75 or 80 casket burials last year, perhaps five or six chose a liner, he said.

With no liner, bodies and caskets decompose faster, allowing for reuse after 40 years.

It’s a huge cost saving: A new grave at Mountain View is $25,000; a standard burial is $1,180, plus reopening the grave costs another $535 for a total of $1,715.

“So for a premium of $535 you can save yourself almost $25,000,” Hodges said.

Mountain View allows two caskets in a grave.

Since Grayston’s grandfather was buried more than 40 years ago, the grandson is eligible to be put in the same grave.

The grave will be dug up, deepened and whatever is left of Grayston’s grandfather (practically nothing, Hodges said) placed at the bottom and covered in dirt.

Grayston’s father will be placed in the deep spot formerly occupied by the grandfather, and Grayston placed in the standard spot on top.

The Grayston family grave was purchased in 1907 when Donald’s grandfather had to bury his 41-year-old wife Jennie.

“Reusing a grave allows people the right to make choices at the end of their lives that are aligned with the beliefs they hold during their life,” Willow’s Pante said.

“I think Don is so moved to think, first, that he’ll be in his neighbourhood cemetery, but that he can reuse the same grave as his father and grandfather.”

Ellen Newman Joins The Board of Directors

Ellen is a licensed funeral director specializing in natural options with eco Cremation & Burial Services Inc. in Ontario.  eco is the only funeral home in Ontario currently that specializes in green and natural burial options. 
For the past 20 years, life has found her hovering at the crossroads of people’s lives – first as a DONA/CAPPA certified doula and childbirth educator and then as a Unitarian Universalist Lay Chaplain. She also served as a full time Realtor for a while – which is another kind of transition. She is a graduate (2014) of the Contemplative End of Life Care program at the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto, where she first learned of home funerals, home funeral guides and thanadoulas, and her passion for green, natural and family centered funeral and burial options was born. She found her work with grieving families as a Lay Chaplain the most rewarding to date which led her to embark on a new career as a funeral director at the age of 50.
Ellen also has a keen interest in the concept of graceful aging, and is the founder and creator of the Welcome the Crone women’s retreat celebrating the age of power and wisdom. She has spoken on the topic of graceful aging to students of the Sociology Department at York University.
She is the host/facilitator of the Halton Hills Death Café, and serves as a member and trainer on the Infant and Pregnancy Loss Committee of the Home Hospice Association. She serves the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga as the chair of the Lay Chaplaincy Committee. She is the founder of the Natural Death Expo - a consumer information fair highlighting green, natural and family centered options in death and dying, the first of which took place in November 2016.
In her spare time, you will find Ellen colouring in adult colouring books, doodling Zentangle (a new love), gardening, singing, cooking, dancing, and meditating, either at home or at the cottage in Parry Sound -where you might also find her in neon green kayak named Oya.

Green Burial: Sustainable Memorial Sites

Taken from Ontario Association of Landscape Architects article October 21, 2016 with information provided by the Green Burial Society of Canada's Catriona Hearn

Woodlands entry monument at the Royal Oak Burial Park, Victoria, B.C. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Woodlands entry monument at the Royal Oak Burial Park, Victoria, B.C. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Green Burial: Sustainable Memorial Sites

Since the 1831 founding of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts, credited with inspiring North America’s public park movement, spaces of remembrance have played evolving, disparate roles in cities. Landscape architects have been instrumental in negotiating the uses of cemeteries as parks, memorials, arboreta, and, more recently, natural burial grounds.

Today’s green burial is an iteration of the ancient practice of direct ground burial, which is still traditional in many cultures. In guidelines laid out by the Green Burial Society of Canada (GBSC), an unembalmed body is placed in a simple wooden casket or shroud, which is placed directly in the ground, without a concrete vault or liner. To complete the process, the surface over the grave must be restored with indigenous plants, and the cemetery plan must minimize the disturbance that can come with digging new graves.

The British Columbia-based GBSC was formed in 2013 to promote sustainability within the bereavement sector and share information about green burial. The GBSC is also working towards establishing certification standards for green burial practices, something its American older sibling, the Green Burial Council, has already put in place in the United States.

Catriona Hearn, BLA, Senior Associate at LEES + Associates and Vice President of the GBSC’s board of directors, emphasizes that Canadian certification will acknowledge the spectrum of green practices within the bereavement sector: “Death and choices about disposition are sensitive —and legitimately so. We should be trying to help people consider these things based on real information.”

According to Hearn, “The burial industry has become more sustainable —environmentally, socially, and, on some levels, economically. It’s incremental, and largely based on people understanding the value of land in a broader sense, especially as space becomes more precious, notably in urban areas. This has led people to see cemeteries as park space.”

Hearn points to Mountain View Cemetery as an example of the positive change sustainable practices can bring to traditional urban cemeteries. Owned and operated by the city of Vancouver since 1886, Mountain View has dealt with the space crunch by becoming a pioneer in grave reuse, allowing it to remain active. The cemetery searches out and reclaims pre-paid vacant plots, using advertisements to try to find the owners of potentially abandoned lots purchased before 1940.

As well, relatives can reuse existing plots after 40 years have passed, a practice contingent on burial without concrete grave liners, so that existing remains can be reburied deeper and eventually returned to the earth. Grave reuse is a rarity in Canada, but Hearn thinks it would be a big move forward for sustainable burial practices.

In her position at LEES + Associates, Hearn worked on the Woodlands area at Victoria’s Royal Oak Burial Park, which was created in response to community demand and opened in 2008. A shady grove surrounded by the native coastal forest of Vancouver Island, it is the first dedicated green burial area in Canada, and expresses a communal approach to the land. People are interred sequentially, and memorialized on a central monument. Hearn says that this gets people thinking of the larger picture instead of concentrating on the ownership of a single space.

Woodlands memorialization. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Woodlands memorialization. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Woodlands view of the entry into Phase 1, Royal Oak Burial Park. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Woodlands view of the entry into Phase 1, Royal Oak Burial Park. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

While B.C. is clearly a leader in green burial, options for sustainable interment also exist in Ontario. Three non-denominational cemeteries offer green burial: Duffin Meadows Cemetery in Pickering, Meadowvale in Brampton, and Cobourg Union Cemetery north of Toronto. As well, there are a number of Muslim and Jewish cemeteries with green practices, including the Toronto Muslim Cemetery in Richmond Hill.

Both Duffin Meadows and Meadowvale cemeteries are run by the Mount Pleasant Group, Ontario’s largest not-for-profit cemetery. At these sites, graves are not individually marked, and memorials are inscribed on central monuments. Meadow grasses are allowed to grow tall, and naturalization is encouraged. Rick Cowan, Mount Pleasant Group’s Assistant Vice-President of Marketing and Communications, describes natural burial as a niche market:

“While much has been written about natural or green burial, demand for this choice of disposition, in our experience, remains relatively low. Our goal is to provide choice regardless of the market size.”

Stephanie Snow, OALA, a principal at Snow Larc Landscape Architecture, has worked with private cemetery clients to increase environmental stewardship through use of low-impact design, such as xeriscaping at Toronto’s Prospect Cemetery. She sees green burial as one option among many for cemeteries trying to appeal to a diverse population: “Some cultures have embraced natural burial for a very long time. For example, the Bahá’í faith does not permit embalming unless required by law. Jewish burial restricts embalming and places the body in as close contact with the earth as possible. Muslim tradition restricts embalming, and the deceased is wrapped in a simple shroud. Traditionally, the casket is carried to the gravesite by members of the community, on foot, and shovels are provided at the graveside. If a vault is used, and it most often is not, it is open bottomed to allow the remains to be in direct contact with the earth.”

Snow and Cowan both point to cremation as an option for people searching for an environmentally conscious choice, citing the development of nearly emission-free crematoria, such as those added to Elgin Mills and Mount Pleasant cemeteries in 2014. These advancements come as the bereavement industry makes a major shift towards cremation. Between 1985 and 2014 the number of cremations in the Greater Toronto Area jumped from 8,500 to roughly 55,500. However, according to Snow, 50 percent of the remains were either left at the crematorium or “stored” at home, reducing the number of interments. As she sees it, “The business challenge for cemeteries and landscape architects alike is that while designers create more options to attract families back to cemeteries, fewer people are using them.”

As well, Snow reports that peoples’ burial requests are changing: “In addition to scattering forests and scattering gardens, I’m seeing my clients incorporate a range of green burial options, from mausoleums using geothermal heating systems to communal ossuaries.”

Nicole Hanson, MES (Pl.), a community planner and former funeral celebrant who has worked as a regulator for Ontario’s Cemeteries and Crematoriums Regulation Unit, sees the challenges of access to affordable housing created by rising land values mirrored in cemeteries. People want to memorialize relatives nearby, but can’t necessarily afford the options in the city. She asks where people will go if they can’t afford to pay thousands for a plot and their culture forbids cremation: “Death is becoming an equity issue when you are looking at planning for death, and designing for death, and memorializing people. We should be allocating spaces for people to die [and be memorialized] in the city.”

Hanson points to the extensive cemetery-needs analysis done by York Region in 2015 as the kind of planning that needs to become more common. The report inventoried the region’s existing cemeteries and user demographics, and projected the need for cemetery space up to 2041, a planning horizon considered too short by many stakeholders. Notably, the report suggests that 66 percent of the users in York Region could be coming from Toronto within the next 25 years, as Toronto will have reached its interment capacity. Hanson hopes that Toronto will undertake its own cemetery-needs analysis soon, and she has been working with Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong and Councillor Justin J. Di Ciano in an effort to make this happen.

Hanson sees opportunities for planners and landscape architects to design smaller memorial sites that serve nearby communities, or to find more capacity in currently inactive municipal cemeteries. She has seen cemetery operations consolidate as small sites no longer able to support themselves are signed over to municipal care, which provides municipalities with the opportunity to incorporate cemeteries into their long-term plans.

As Southern Ontario continues to densify, the green practices of cemeteries such as Mountain View and Royal Oak Burial Park could be examples of how to deal with space constraints in memorial sites. However, that will depend on what consumers want from the bereavement industry, and how far into the future planners, landscape architects, and cemetery operators are willing to think.


Woodlands 2009 plan. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Woodlands 2009 plan. IMAGE/ Courtesy of LEES + Associates

Mountain View, a Vancouver cemetery, is a pioneer in grave reuse. IMAGE/ Wayne Worden

Mountain View, a Vancouver cemetery, is a pioneer in grave reuse. IMAGE/ Wayne Worden

Mountain View, a Vancouver cemetery, is a pioneer in grave reuse. IMAGE/ Wayne Worden

Mountain View, a Vancouver cemetery, is a pioneer in grave reuse. IMAGE/ Wayne Worden

Denman Island is Certified

A Small Community Takes a Big Step

October 1st was an auspicious day on Denman Island. Following a visit to the Island, staff of Consumer Protection BC issued a Place of Interment Licence to the Denman Island Memorial Society, and the Denman Island Natural Burial Cemetery became a reality. 

The Denman Island Memorial Society formed in 2009 to develop and operate a cemetery for Denman Island, as the existing cemetery had sold all of its burial rights in the early 1970s. From the start, the goal was to create a cemetery that followed the principles of natural burial. The new cemetery is thought to be the first newly created, exclusively green cemetery in Canada.

The cemetery is located in the middle of the Island and is bordered by Central Park, a large conservation/recreation property owned by the Denman Conservancy Association. The Conservancy donated one hectare of Central Park for the cemetery, on the condition that the Memorial Society register a conservation covenant on the land. The covenant protects the ecological values of the land while allowing its use as a cemetery. It is thought to be the first such covenant in this country. 

Denman Island is a small island in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, with about 1200 residents. As happens in small communities, residents of the Island have, over time, identified social needs and worked together to address these needs. The creation of this cemetery is another example of the spirit of volunteerism that bonds the community and has resulted in a number of vital community facilities and services.
The new cemetery is intended for residents and landowners of Denman Island and members of their immediate families. It provides for 1000 graves, with the intention of serving the community for 100 years. The official opening is scheduled for Sunday, October 11th; however, the first burial will occur two days prior to the opening to accommodate the needs of an Island family. 

The Memorial Society is grateful to the many individuals and groups who provided advice and donated services in order to make this project happen. The Society also appreciates the wholehearted support extended by Denman islanders, as well as the assistance provided by the following funders: The Real Estate Foundation of B.C., the Comox Valley Regional District; the Union Bay Credit Union; the Natural Burial Association; and Piercy’s Mount Washington Funeral Home. 

For more information about the Denman Island Natural Burial Cemetery, see