Local funeral home representatives say things have to change in Mapleton if they are to provide a reasonable level of service for residents.
Ken and Mary Thompson, of Heritage Funeral Homes, recently told council Mapleton is the only municipality they deal with that does not allow funeral directors to act as representatives for grieving families.
“And I don’t think that’s fair to the residents of your municipality, who have paid taxes for as long as they’ve lived here,” Mary Thompson said.
Ken Thompson said concessions have to made so those in mourning are not forced to come into the township office and make their own arrangements at the Drayton cemetery.
“We need to have compassion here,” he said. “These people are grieving and many of them are not comfortable coming down to the municipal office.”
Councillor Bruce Whale said there has been a provincial report to address the problem, but it has not yet been released. The Cemeteries Act is administered by the provincial Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services.
“My understanding is, under the current legislation we can not do that,” Whale said.
However, Mary Thompson said she was told by provincial officials that municipal councils can define who is a personal representative, like they do for site plan and real estate agents.
Councillor Mike Downey admitted “it’s a bit of a grey area,” though he stressed funeral homes cannot sell cemetery plots.
“We’re not selling them,” Ken Thompson replied. He said the funeral home does purchase plots on behalf of families and is reimbursed later.
He wondered what the funeral home is to do if someone dies on a Friday evening and the family wants to have a Monday morning burial. Currently, he added that is next to impossible because his business does not have a contact number for the township on weekends.
“I hear what you’re saying,” Whale responded. He suggested perhaps it would make sense for the township to once again have a cemetery committee.
Ken Thompson said he likes the idea, as a committee may help address several issues the municipality has never followed through on, despite promises to the contrary.
Downey said the Cemetery Act can be confusing, at over 40 pages in length, but it does say officials have to conduct themselves with compassion, and that is what the township is trying to do. With that in mind, he said council should “immediately” call for people to sit on a cemetery committee.
Ken Thompson suggested the committee should include two councillors, two clergy members, three or four residents and funeral home representatives. Whale said the Mapleton Historical Society may also be interested in representation on the committee.
Council passed a resolution directing staff to bring a report on a cemetery committee to the meeting on March 24.
Council also vowed to address the problem of not having a weekend contact person for grave selection.