Removal of graveside items by B.C. cemetery staff deemed ‘disrespectful’

Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. Some are bagged and now collecting condensation and insects inside. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. Some are bagged and now collecting condensation and insects inside. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Flowers and other adornments left at Hope Cemetery have been moved off to a back storage and maintenance area. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)

If you visit the Hope Cemetery today, you will find there are no flowers, no teddy bears, no mementos of any kind on most of the headstones.

They’ve all been removed, much to the surprise of several people who have loved ones buried there. A handful of them have contacted the Hope Standard to bring attention to the matter, and let others know there have been changes at the cemetery.

District staff posted a sign at the cemetery advises that the removal would be happening, with 14 days notice.

But one concerned resident, who asked that their name not be used, said a better effort should have been made to inform the community that this would be done. That would have given people the opportunity to go and collect cherished items, they said.

Instead, staff collected the items and put them into a large wooden bin in the back of the cemetery, by the maintenance building. In it, there are countless bundles of flowers, notes and cards, photographs, flower stands and more, and none of them are tagged with a plot number or name. There are also flower bundles that have been set aside that are now grown over with weeds between the landscaping bins.

Other items have been put in clear bags and set at the side of the maintenance building. In at least one of those bags, dozens of small insects were crawling over blue fabric hydrangeas. In all of them, condensation is building.

One person who contacted the Standard said that some families spend small fortunes on designer flowers, and ensure they are tasteful and kept in season. Many of the fake flowers in the bin are in perfect shape, and in season.

Mayor Peter Robb said he wasn’t aware of any of these complaints until contacted by the Standard. But when he spoke up with staff he learned that they were following up on other complaints that maintenance wasn’t being done, including mowing and weeding. And to get that work done, he said, staff needed to remove all the adornments.

“It was becoming very difficult to do the maintenance,” Robb said. “Some of them (adornments) were there for years and some gravestones were not being kept tidy.”

The cemetery uses only flat gravestones that are flush with the ground, so any adornments will limit workers from moving around them to weed and cut the grass.

Adornments are allowed, according to the bylaw (No. 1269). But that same bylaw also notes that all adornments will be removed when “their condition is considered to be detrimental to the appearance or beauty of the cemetery.

“Staff was following through on some of the bylaws in place already, they wanted to clean up the cemetery, making it difficult to complete maintenance tasks and distracting from the appearance,” Robb explained.

Everyone who has contacted the Standard has called the way this has been handled “disrespectful.”

“I find this to be so disrespectful to the families,” said Greg Anderson, who comes from Delta to visit his son once a month. “A cemetery is more than just a place to put the people we cherish, it’s a place to come and be with them.”

The mayor agrees that there should have been better notification of the work being done, and is working at directing staff to do better in the future. He was also planning to visit the site himself to have a look.

“I think it could have been handled better, with better communication,” Robb said. “My recommendation to staff was that they should have used other avenues for notification.”

He said there will be a notice forthcoming through the Standard.

municipal politics

Just Posted

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Most Read