Quebec cemetery firm warns it can dig up bodies if fee not paid
A Gatineau man has been told his family must pay $1,694to a cemetery management company or risk having his grandfather, grandmother and other buried relatives dug up and their headstones removed.
Gary Blake said his brother received a letter Friday from Les Jardins du Souvenir demanding $1,694 to renew the lease on a plot the Blake family thought they had owned since 1892.
Blake, 68, visited the snow-covered graves of his father, his grandmother, and at least five other members of his family at Saint Paul Cemetery in Gatineau's Aylmer sector Thursday.
As he described the letter, his voice constricted and he blinked back tears.
"There was no compassion shown towards anybody," he said. "It's the only place to come and see your family."
Les Jardins du Souvenir declined to comment, but a spokesman for the company told the Ottawa Citizen earlier this week thatonce the lease on a plot has expired, the cemetery company may dig up the bones and urns buried there so they can be re-buried deeper in the ground and someone else's grave can be put on top.
"To re-purchase something we already owned didn't make sense."
But aspokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Gatineau, which owns the cemetery and the cemetery maintenance company, said that under Quebec law, neither Blake nor any other individual in Quebec owns a cemetery plot.
"You buy the privilege to use that place," spokesman René Laprise said.
Consequently, most Quebec burial plots are leased for 25, 50 or 99 years, and in Blake's case, the 99-year leaseexpired in 1991.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, the rules are different south of the Ottawa River, where cemeteriessell the right to use plotsin perpetuity and are banned from leasing them.