Montreal’s Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery has reached an agreement in a class-action lawsuit launched by families whose loved ones were put in cold storage during a labour lockout at the historic burial ground in 2007.
The lockout pitted management against the cemetery’s unionized maintenance workers and lasted close to four months.
It was instituted after contract negotiations fell through and tensions between the two sides grew.
Around 500 bodies accumulated in the cemetery’s cold storage room while the two sides held out.
More than 1,200 families took part in the class-action lawsuit, which has now been settled for $1.2 million.
Under the terms of the agreement, families will get up to $400 and the rest will be used to improve services and maintenance at the cemetery on Côtes-des-Neiges Road.
Paul Caghassi had to wait four months to bury his mother as a result of the lockout. He said the class-action lawsuit was more about respect than money.
“The objective of the settlement was really to send a sign or a signal to the cemetery and the employees,” he told CBC News.
Caghassi said the settlement will help affected families find some closure and put the unhappy experience behind them.
“It's been always on my mind. I think today I can turn the page on this and move on, and look at the future in a better way,” he said.
Caghassi plans to lobby governments to have funeral services declared "essential" to avoid similar situations down the road.