Yellowknife spends $47,000 on new columbarium, but it remains empty

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

File this under It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

The city of Yellowknife, spent $47,000 to build a columbarium, a vault designed to house the ashes of the departed, at the city-run Lakeview Cemetery.

But officials apparently didn't bother to inquire whether residents of the Northwest Territories capital would actually use the grey and black marble condo of the dead.

It turns out no one does, including the prime mover behind the project.

The columbarium was the brainchild of prominent citizen Mickey Brown, the 74-year-old widow of Order of Canada recipient Clarence (Shorty) Brown, who's buried at Lakeview.

She began lobbying for the project in 2008, according to the Toronto Star. Brown said she didn't think it was appropriate for people to keep the ashes of their loved ones at home.

"I would never keep any of my family in an urn at home," she told the Star. "I'd put my dog in an urn at home, but not a family member."

Spurred by a friend who displayed the urn of her mother's ashes on her TV set (presumably not a flat screen), Brown decided to push the city for a columbarium. They're common in her native Holland where land for burials is at a premium.

[Related: Cremation urns trapped in collapsed Elliot Lake mall]

The new structure, which has been available for use since September, has 100 niches for cremated remains and could be expanded if necessary.

It appears it won't be necessary anytime soon.

So far, no one has paid the $379 fee to place ashes in the columbarium, which compares with $578 for a traditional burial.

Even Brown won't be using it. She told the Star her daughter had bought seven Lakeview plots for the family.

"I have no intention of doing cremation for myself," she said.

The Star noted traditional burials are more popular than cremation mainly because bodies must be shipped to Edmonton, the closest city with a crematorium.

Because ground becomes unworkably hard in the winter, the city digs an average of 20 graves in advance before the winter.

(Mickey Brown photo)