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Post: Mount Pleasant Cemetary Belongs to Citizens



From the Post:

Cemeteries belong to citizens, not 'owners'
'The Mount Pleasant Group is built on our ancestors' donation of $1 per family'

Ann Berkeley, National Post
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's a shame Mount Pleasant Cemetery's proposed 24,000-square-foot visitation centre -- with its 82-car parking lot -- has caused so much bad feeling. Activists are delving into archives to see whether they can stop the desecration. Save our Greenspace signs are popping up all over; many are signing a petition.

I think the Necropolis, Mount Pleasant and Prospect Cemeteries belong to Torontonians, not to the guys running them, and I've followed the money trail to show it.

Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries writes its organization began in 1826 when the Town of York's (later Toronto) population of 1,700 had nowhere to bury those not belonging to the two dominant religions.

Confronting this problem, local bigwigs including William Lyon Mackenzie and John Beverley Robinson met in a Masonic lodge over what's now a downtown pub and undertook to set up a public subscription to create a potters field and non-sectarian cemetery.

No family could contribute more than the equivalent of a dollar (sterling back then) "... to ensure that no person or group could claim a proprietary interest." Actually, they came up short and several trustees kicked in money, later repaid from cemetery earnings. The Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada passed a statute establishing the Trustees of the Toronto General Burying Grounds.

The money was put in trust. The four trustees were to have no business interest in the cemetery. They bought property in the Village of Yorkville north of the town limits but citizens petitioned against having a burial ground so they had to sell, buying instead the religiously affiliated Necropolis, which soon became a public cemetery. It took years to move the bodies there.

Then they bought land south of the graveyard and started burials, only to have the locals object again. The trustees had to sell the land back to the city. It's now Riverdale Farm.

In 1871, they incorporated themselves as a non-share capital corporation with sweeping powers to create and change bylaws pertaining to the cemeteries and to pay no taxes.

With what little they had, they acquired land further north which, in 1876, opened as Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It had orchards to the south and a pond in what is now the cemetery's Vale of Avoca and grew so popular that it expanded eastward.

With the income from the graveyards, the trustees bought Prospect Cemetery. As the city grew, so did its need for cemeteries. All in the Mount Pleasant Group are built on our ancestors' initial donation of $1 per family and the trustees' good governance.

Although it is still a non-profit corporation, and has no owners, Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries now says these grounds are private, that they run commercial operations. They no longer have trustees but a chief executive officer (Norris Zucchet, one-time head of the Toronto Parking Authority) and a board of directors about whom they are very secretive. At least three of them are gung-ho for this visitation centre (a.k.a. funeral home without embalming facilities), which, incidentally will compete for business with taxpaying funeral homes.

Public accountability is down in black and white in a Mount Pleasant Cemetery document dated Oct. 3, 1876, in which Trustee W. F. McMaster wrote, "By the order of the Trustees," (note the use of the word "trustees"), "Mount Pleasant is therefore the property of the citizens and its affairs are managed by a Board of Trustees chosen according to law, who have no private interests whatsoever in the trust..." (his italics).

After no changes in bylaws for years, the group recently submitted new ones for approval to the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, Cemeteries Regulation Unit.

True to form, they have been secretive, posting discreet signs at only three of Mount Pleasant Cemetery's six gates and allowing everyone only this month to see and protest them. The bylaws, if rubber-stamped, will enable them to build, add to an existing structure, diminish the burial space, reroute or abolish an existing right of way, destroy grave vegetation without warning the "rights holder," and then send the family a bill.

Have we lost the plot or have they?

- Toronto writer, broadcaster and communications consultant Ann Berkeley is a neighbour of Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Wow, I hadn't heard of this until today, and I live right by the cemetary. Those signs are well hidden in public view!

There's a community meeting tonight, if anyone is interested. I can't go (out of town), but here's the information...



Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Time: 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Place: Our Lady of Perpetual Help School
1 1/2 Garfield Avenue (just east of Mt. Pleasant)

Dear Moore Park Resident:

Please attend a community meeting regarding Mt. Pleasant Cemetery’s proposed construction of a 24,000 square foot Visitation Centre, with paved parking for 82 cars.

Hosted by The Moore Park Residents’ Association and Councillor Kyle Rae, this meeting will be attended by representatives from the Mt. Pleasant Group, who will explain their development plans, and by representatives of various City of Toronto departments that are reviewing the plans as part of their Site Plan Approval process.

The Moore Park Residents’ Association opposes the development because we do not believe the site is zoned for a Visitation Centre; because we seek to preserve precious green space in our ever-intensifying city; and because we believe that due process has not been adhered to with regard to the review and approval of this proposed development.

Please join us to learn more and to share your views.


Cindy Caron Thorburn
President, Moore Park Residents’ Association
For the residents, who slumber below, this is a dead issue.
More from the Moore Park site:

The Mount Pleasant
Visitation, Chapel & Reception Centre

Key Facts from the Moore Park Residents’ Association
April 21, 2006

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Mt. Pleasant Cemetery proposes to pave over precious green space to build a commercial visitation centre. The building itself would be 24,000 square feet. It would have paved parking for 82 cars.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Twice, the City’s Buildings Division told the cemetery it is not zoned for this building. In December of 2005, the city’s Legal department overturned this decision, but will not explain its rationale for doing so to our councillor or to the public.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The proposed building site is where the ravine trail meets the Discovery Walk: the connectivity of Toronto’s green space will be compromised. With Toronto’s green space threatened by the intensification proposed by the city’s Official Plan, preserving park-like green space is more important than ever.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Moore Park is now solely residential, yet a significant commercial venture is allowed to submit its site plan for approval without prior public consultation.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The proposed commercial venture will bring hundreds more cars to the cemetery on a weekly basis. This will compromise how walkers, hikers, bird lovers and cyclists enjoy this space.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The full environmental impact of the building is not known and the city is not conducting an “Environmental Impact Study†as part of its review of this proposal.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The ravine and cemetery form part of an essential animal corridor that serves as a migration route for animals such as birds, squirrels, fox and even coyote.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Ambient light from the Visitation Centre will disturb the birds that use cemetery and ravine trees for homes and rest.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The vegetation and 'soft surfaces' of the cemetery serve to absorb and filter surface water runoff. The removal of trees and creation of yet more hard surfaces will inhibit the natural processes of attenuation and absorption of pollutants. In addition to negatively affecting water quality, there may be slope stability issues created for houses atop the ravine.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Mature trees are being removed or replanted in the process of this venture. While the cemetery plans to plant more small trees than the large ones it will destroy, nothing can make up for the environmental benefits of larger trees.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The cemetery argues that there will be no neighbourhood traffic impact, but even with vehicular access off of Mt. Pleasant, more cars will access this part of town off of Moore Avenue and many drivers may park their cars on Moore and other neighbouring streets to walk in to the Visitation Centre.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The cemetery maintains they will not prepare or embalm bodies on site. But pending legislation is bringing a whole variety of new business opportunities to cemeteries and this could change over time.

·&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The cemetery argues the style of the building is in keeping with the neighbourhood, but Moore Park has no or few homes in the proposed suburban style.

For these reasons and more, The Moore Park Residents’ Association is opposed to the building of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery’s Visitation Centre in the proposed site. The cemetery has other buildings it can enlarge without breaking ground so close to family homes and on precious green space. Tell your city councillor and
Mayor Miller what you think of this proposal!

For more information, contact The Moore Park Residents’ Association at or
You can sign an online petition at
Wow, I hadn't heard of this until today, and I live right by the cemetary. Those signs are well hidden in public view!

I took a drive in the neighbourhood south of the cemetary and east of Mount Pleasant last week. Many signs were visable.
I haven't headed east along Moore for a while, I guess that's why I haven't seen it.

Moore Ave. is so heavily travelled. I'm having a little trouble in believing that the additional traffic along Moore Ave. and Welland can really be that bad.
Response by Mt. Pleasant Group, from the Post:

Mount Pleasant responds

Norris Zucchet, National Post
Published: Friday, June 02, 2006

One of the principal reasons the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) was established was to provide choices and services that did not exist in the community. Since 1826 this has continued to be our guiding light.

Indeed, we were the first to provide non-sectarian service in the Toronto area; the first to build a public mausoleum in Ontario; the first to establish a crematorium; the first to offer columbarium niches; we created the province's first cremation garden; and we were the first in the GTA to open a visitation centre. All of these services can be found at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, with the exception of a visitation centre, which we are now proposing to build.

Despite MPGC's best efforts and outreach to the community and city officials, there appears to be confusion and misinformation regarding the proposed visitation centre at Mount Pleasant.

It was with this in mind that I read with great interest Ann Berkeley's commentary relating to Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the May 31 Post. We note that Ms. Berkeley is a neighbour to the cemetery and respect her right to express her opinions regarding its history and the manner in which we serve our customers. However, in fairness to your readers, she made a few comments that are not wholly accurate and should be clarified.

The key (and accurate) point Ms. Berkeley makes is the cemetery operation is incorporated as a ''non-share capital corporation,'' with non-profit status and its corresponding statutes. What was failed to be mentioned is by legislative authority the cemetery is recognized as a private corporation with the added parameter that no individual can profit from its activities. All net proceeds from the operation are and have been reinvested to ensure the corporation provides perpetual care and service to the families it serves.

MPGC has abided by the rules of its incorporation, continues to do so today and will continue to do so in the future.

In this regard, all 10 of our cemeteries, including Mount Pleasant, are private property, although we have a long history of welcoming our neighbours for passive recreational activities, provided the rights and privacy of our families are maintained.

Regarding statements made on bylaw changes, all cemeteries in Ontario are guided and bound by the Cemeteries Act, which is administered by the Office of the Cemeteries Registrar in the Ministry of Government Services. The Act is very clear on what procedures are required to change a cemetery's bylaws, including notification; there is nothing secretive about the process.

MPGC has diligently adhered to the process and is in total compliance with all legislated requirements. We also went to great lengths to ensure that the recent application and notice process to revise our bylaws was reviewed with and approved by the Registrar's Office.

Furthermore, the new bylaws are in response to changing consumer preferences and the growing diversity of ethno-cultural needs. They are in fact proposed for all 10 of our GTA cemeteries and will give families greater flexibility and choice.

An important point to note is cemeteries routinely review and revise their bylaws, and that bylaws (for any cemetery in Ontario) exist to guide the rights holders and the cemetery operator. The notice process is primarily intended for feedback and input of the rights holders/families and monument suppliers.

It should also be noted that Ms Berkeley's assertions regarding the listed bylaw changes have in fact been part of our bylaws for some time. I would acknowledge a minor proposed change that eliminates the notice to the owner for the removal of overgrown shrubs and trees in order to allow us to deal with very old interment rights.

We have always valued our role as an integral part of the fabric of Toronto and respectfully submit that our cemeteries have always provided the highest quality service and choice available. We are continuing this long-standing tradition with our proposal to build a visitation centre at Mount Pleasant that will be a valuable, contemporary and desirable option.

- Norris Zucchet is president and CEO of Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries.

This is one hell of a bump.................but it seems the most appropriate place...

Court ruling out this morning.

Mount Pleasant ruled to be a public trust, not a private corporation.

Its constituted organization/board has been in violation of the law since the 1980s, says judge.

Mt. Pleasant wasting no time, says it will appeal.