Dysart changing cemetery rules

·3 min read

Dysart et al staff presented a new cemetery bylaw March 9 in part to address issues stemming from a conflict between caretakers and a grieving mother.

Council committee of the whole reviewed the draft bylaw for its Evergreen Cemetery, which added rules around gravesite mementos. It came after a viral video from resident, Dulce Acero, in June, where she protested alleged mistreatment from caretakers disposing of mementos placed by the grave of her son Phoenix.

Mayor Andrea Roberts said the memorialization section was made with that June incident in mind.

“We’re trying to take all that into consideration and do our best to ensure that people are able to memorialize their loved ones,” Roberts said. “But also making sure it’s safe for the caretakers, and also keeping within the decorum of a cemetery.”

The new version states the municipality reserves the right to regulate articles placed on plots. It prohibits ceramics, corrosive materials or breakable objects by graves. It allows for loose objects and flowers to be placed up off the ground, on a ledge or in an elevated basket.

The bylaw also states objects removed by staff will be placed at the main entrance, where they must be “picked up in a timely manner” before staff dispose of them. The previous bylaw did not formally address mementos or a disposal policy.

“We aren’t saying people can’t leave things or mementos,” Roberts said. “But they have to be in a certain manner. They can’t be all over the grass and they have to be of a certain material.”

Acero said she is dissatisfied, and the municipality did not seem to change existing protocol.

“It’s essentially the same thing,” Acero, who is Hispanic, said. “There’s absolutely nothing underneath that is sensitive to the multicultural members of our community because it’s exactly the same rules written in a different way.”

Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy mentioned the possibility of including a small area by a plot untouched by staff for mementos or flowers, which exist in some cemeteries. Deputy clerk, Laurie Salvatori, said something like that could be included, though added it could make maintenance more difficult.

“Right now, you can take a whipper snipper right up to a granite stone,” Roberts said. “Can’t take a whipper snipper up against a little rosebush.”

Council voted to receive the report as information and direct staff to bring back a revised bylaw at the April 27 meeting. Salvatori said there will be a public notice for a 30-day period before then.

Acero said she would like to see a designated memorialization area as Kennedy mentioned. She said caretakers have left her and her son’s grave alone since she went public in June, but she is not certain that will last.

“I’m not the only one that’s ever had a negative encounter,” Acero said. “I understand there has to be a bylaw and there has to be rules … What the difference is between Evergreen Cemetery and the other cemeteries in the community is maybe the lack of humanity.”

Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander