Photos, videos to be allowed in Waterloo cemeteries without restrictions

Waterloo councillors vote down changes to bylaw that could have restricted people from taking photos or videos in city-owned cemeteries.

Council votes down changes to bylaw that said permission would be needed before taking pictures

The City of Waterloo will not change its bylaw for the operation of Parkview and Mount Hope cemeteries. City staff had suggested altering the bylaw to state that no one is permitted to take pictures or video on cemetery grounds, but city councillors voted against the change Monday. (Google StreetView)

Anyone who wants to take pictures in Waterloo cemeteries can do so without concern after city council voted not to approve changes to a bylaw that would have prohibited the activity without prior approval.

City staff had told CBC News the rules wouldn't apply to history buffs or family members but the bylaw stated that to maintain decorum, privacy and the sanctity of the cemetery, the cemetery manager had the right to stop people from taking photos or videos. 

Councillors rejected that Monday afternoon.

"What we need to do is move on," Coun. Mark Whaley said at the council meeting, noting there have been not breaches of decorum or terrible behaviour noted in the city's cemeteries.

"Let's call the whole thing off."

No issue for personal use

Staff had previously said no one would be told to stop taking photos or videos for personal use in a cemetery.

Some genealogists expressed concern initially about the bylaw, saying it could have a "major impact" on their work.

But Bryce Crouse, the city's manager of cemetery services, said staff wouldn't interfere in those cases. 

In an interview earlier this month, Crouse said the changes were more to stop people who might be using the cemeteries for photographing or filming for commercial purposes, and also to maintain proper decorum in cemeteries.

"If someone came in and started doing something now and we approached them and said, 'We'd like you to shut that down,' they would say, 'Well, show me in the bylaws where I can't be doing this,' and right now, we don't have that," he said.

'Waste of time'

Coun. Melissa Durrell said staff shouldn't decide whether it was OK for a person to take a video that they wanted to send to family — and people shouldn't feel deterred from doing so.

"Getting involved with this, I think we're digging into situations that we have no right to be involved in. It's not our business," she said.

There was a motion to hold off on making a decision and get more feedback from staff, but that was defeated.

Whaley said the issue was a topic of conversation in the community, but it shouldn't take up more of council's time.

"It's just a big summertime waste of time," he said.

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