By Chad Ingram
The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society is proposing that an undeveloped section at the north end of the cemetery at St. Stephen’s Church along Buckslide Road in Algonquin Highlands become Haliburton County’s first green burial site.
The society’s Terry Moore paid a visit to Algonquin Highlands councillors during their Jan. 16 meeting.
Moore and his wife Shirley lost their son Kyle last February after a decades-long battle with brain cancer. Kyle’s strong environmental convictions meant his family tried to seek out environmentally-friendly burial options locally. Green burials do not include the use of embalming chemicals steel fibreglass or cement vaults but rather use biodegradable shrouds coffin-shaped baskets or unfinished wooden coffins. While the Moores were able to find cemeteries offering green winter burials in places such as Roseneath Cobourg and Kitchener-Waterloo they struggled with the idea of burying their son in a place far from home that he didn’t know. Ultimately the Moores chose to have their son’s body embalmed for a spring burial at St. Stephen’s cemetery which Moore has explained was a difficult decision for the family.
The Moores have since founded Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society and have given a number of delegations to municipal councils in Haliburton County since last spring explaining the environmental benefits of green burials as well as encouraging local councils to adopt bylaws that would permit green burials to take place within municipally owned cemeteries.
“We’ve had a lot of people come back to us over the last eight months” Moore told councillors last week. “It’s actually been an incredible experience.”
Moore said there is a high level of interest in the concept of green burials that the society now has more than 25 members and has received thousands of dollars in donations. There have even been offers of land for the purposes of a green cemetery however as Moore explained the creation of new burial grounds is a complicated one that would entail a $100000 deposit right off the bat.
Therefore the creation of green burial sections within existing traditional cemeteries is the preferred choice. The group has been working in collaboration with the City of Niagara Falls which has been a pioneering municipality on green burials and it is creating a website that will include a section on frequently asked questions regarding green burials.
Another request from Moore has been that the county’s municipalities consider permitting winter burials which take place within some communities.
“There’s no burial options at all in the county for six months” Moore said encouraging councils to consider operations and equipment that would permit burials between November and April. Moore said that there has been some conflation of green burials and winter burials since he is requesting both and while he said ideally these practices might be introduced in lockstep he encouraged the adoption of either as soon as possible.
“Of all the cemeteries in the county it’s the least developed” Moore said of the cemetery at St. Stephen’s explaining that was why the society was proposing that it be the first to accommodate green burials. Moore was also requesting the creation of an ad-hoc committee to work on the project one that would be disbanded once green burials were instituted.
“It’s a good conversation and it’s a conversation worth having” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “ . . . I think people are really attentive to see this go forward.”
Moffatt noted that council is already supportive in principle of the society’s work and thought that instead of a committee continued conversations between the group and council would be sufficient in terms of accomplishing what needed to get done. After a visit from Moore last year council agreed that it would put plot sales in the northern portion of the St. Stephen’s cemetery on hold.
“We said yes and we said yes to St. Stephen’s” Moffatt said.
“I would prefer to see a good solid working relationship as opposed to a committee” Moffatt added.
While the site would be the first one in the county “I do think people probably want to be buried in their own community” said Councillor Lisa Barry indicating that it would probably be worthwhile for other lower-tier townships to also continue looking at the practice of green burials.
Moffatt asked how it would be decided whom got buried within the St. Stephen’s site. Moore said some municipalities have restrictions on their cemeteries that limit plot sales to residents of the municipality or have a fee that is applied for non-residents.
The society is hosting an educational workshop regarding green burials at Dysart et al council chambers in the Village of Haliburton on Tuesday Feb. 4 at 1 p.m.