The metal gates to Pleasant Street Cemetery in Kamloops on a sunny day

Advocating for green burials in Kamloops

Our Green Burial Action Team is making progress! For the past 18 months, we’ve been taking a two-pronged approach: working with City of Kamloops staff to make available green burial options in our local cemeteries, and looking for folks with land who might be willing to dedicate part of it as a natural cemetery. (Do you know someone? Connect us!)

The Wren, an independent, community-driven news source, recently shed some light with an excellent article on the burial option currently available here, and what our action team is hoping to achieve.

One of our team members, Heidi, recently made a request to Kamloops City Council to update the restrictive language in our cemetery bylaw to open the door to greener practices. Council was very receptive and directed staff to explore the recommended language change. See Heidi’s inspiring remarks at the bottom of this post.

Other green burial highlights:

  • Members of the green burial team were recently approved for a Small Community Grant to collect local stories about cemeteries. Watch for more news about an event happening this fall at the Pleasant Street Cemetery.
  • There will be a Kamloops Adult Learners Society (KALS) presentation on October 10th at 1:30PM. Check out the KALS website for how to register.

From Heidi:

In my recent address to the Kamloops City Council (see below), I spoke on behalf of Transition Kamloops’ Green Burial Action Group, advocating for the inclusion of green burial options in our area, aligning with both environmental sustainability and personal choice objectives. With the council updating the cemetery bylaw, our group seized the opportunity to propose an amendment, replacing rigid requirements with flexible options to allow for more environmentally friendly interment practices. The response was overwhelmingly positive, as Councillor Katie Neustaeter immediately granted our request, leaving me feeling happy and excited about the progress towards a more sustainable and inclusive burial process in our community!

Honourable Members of the Kamloops City Council,

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to ask a question today on behalf of Transition Kamloops’ Green Burial Action Group. We are a grassroots group of citizens who are interested in helping to make green burials available in our area.

We understand that green burials are already part of the Kamloops cemetery plan, and we are hearing a lot of interest from the public in more natural burial processes.

Our question aligns with both environmental sustainability and personal choice: Would Council consider directing staff to amend Cemetery Bylaw 6-27 22G to allow green burials, as is being done in Penticton, Prince George, Chilliwack, Victoria, Vancouver, and Nelson?

The specific amendment we propose involves adjusting the language of the bylaw, replacing rigid requirements with flexible options. Currently, the bylaw mandates the use of materials that do not deteriorate for caskets or cremation urns. This, alongside strict specifications for vaults or liners, inadvertently restricts the practice of more environmentally friendly interment practices.

Our proposal is simple: to replace the term “shall” with “may” in relevant sections of the bylaw. By doing so, we introduce flexibility that allows residents the option to choose green burial practices while still adhering to established regulations.

We understand the importance of maintaining standards for cemetery operations, including considerations for provincial regulations, safety, aesthetics, and sustainability. However, we also recognize the growing demand for alternative burial options that prioritize environmental responsibility and cultural sensitivity.

Green burial practices, which often involve biodegradable caskets or shrouds without the use of vaults or liners, offer a meaningful way for individuals to return to Earth in a manner that reflects their values and beliefs.

I’d like to note that we’ve had the opportunity to engage in three productive meetings with the city cemetery staff, with Jeff Putnam’s presence in the most recent one. Their receptiveness and support have been incredibly encouraging. It’s heartening to see their commitment to initiating work on green burial by the year’s end, and perhaps even expediting the process slightly.

While I’m hopeful that our inquiry reflects the community’s keen interest rather than implying any criticism of the staff’s pace, I do believe a gentle nudge wouldn’t hurt.

In summary, we, the Transition Kamloops’ Green Burial Action Group, ask whether Council would consider directing staff to investigate the proposed amendment to Cemetery Bylaw 6-27 22G.

By embracing flexibility and inclusivity, we can ensure that our community remains responsive to the diverse needs and preferences of its residents, both in life and in death.

Photo credit: Lyssa Martin, The Wren

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