Rules restricting the kind of tributes allowed to be left at gravesites at the City of Vernon, B.C.’s cemetery have some people upset.
The city argues the restrictions are needed to keep maintenance staff safe, but residents are concerned the rules aren’t practical and restrict the way people can mourn.
Hundreds have now signed an online petition against the change.
The bylaw change was passed in 2019 but the city only started enforcing it last week after a lengthy “grace period.”
It only allows fresh-cut flowers in the spring, summer, and early fall (from March 15 to October 15 annually) and doesn’t allow non-floral offerings.
“They’re far too restrictive. They don’t respect religious beliefs,” said Joe Langlois who has family in the cemetery and helped organize the petition.
“It’s kind of hurtful the way it was done.”
Previously non-floral offerings weren’t specifically restricted and artificial flowers were allowed year-round. However, flowers had to be in a vase and there were specific rules about where that vase could be placed.
More on Canada
Vernon’s mayor says the city enacted the change because if items break they can pose a hazard to those cutting the lawns.
“There [are] some safety risks on machine operators and people who are trying to maintain the cemetery when there [are] broken pieces of plastic and glass,” said Victor Cumming.
Cumming said other cemetery operators are also seeing similar safety issues and are moving away from allowing tributes that could pose a hazard.
Critics of the change say fresh flowers will quickly wilt in the summer heat.
Some have also expressed concern that the new rules restrict the way people can mourn and don’t allow families to leave religious items.
“They are calling it thoughtless, disgusting,” said Langlois of the public reaction to the rule change.
Langlois is hoping that the city and residents can find a compromise on the issue.
Elspeth Manning is one of more than 900 people who have signed the petition.
“Any burial site is historic and I believe needs to be treated with a little bit more thought and consideration and compromise between the people that are mourning and what the city needs to do to provide good care,” Manning said.
The rules are more flexible in the week after the burial allowing any type of floral tribute and the mayor stresses artificial flowers are still allowed in the colder months when lawn maintenance isn’t occurring.
“Thoughts go out to everybody when someone passes and there is serious mourning that goes on that is why we give flexibility in the first seven days we really do,” said Mayor Cumming.
“Then we have to weigh what happens after that so council has made this decision they’ve made a clear decision…on the safety side.”
The original deadline for families to remove tributes that don’t fit within the new rules was last week.
Now non-floral offerings have been picked up from grave sites and are being stored in a shipping container.
The city says that will give loved ones till April 14 to collect any items they still want.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.