Toronto’s oldest cemetery move the cremains of 500 people in what is thought to be the largest project of its kind in Ontario’s history

In what is thought to be the largest disinterment of human remains in Ontario’s history, the cremains of 500 people have been removed from their former resting places. The project, which is taking place at St. James Cemetery in Toronto, is an attempt to save the gravesite from erosion. This is due to the location of the gravesite being on a hilltop overlooking the Rosedale Valley road.

The project aims to stabilize the slope in preparation for the reinterment of the cremains in their graves. The operation is said to cost about $2.5 million in total, a whopping sum which emphasizes how big a project it truly is. It is not uncommon practice for cemeteries to have to move cremains occasionally, but a project on this large a scale is unheard of in Ontario’s history at least.

Most the families (those that could be reached) have been informed of the move and each grave has had its GPS co-ordinates recorded and has been marked with a flag. This is so that the remains can be reinterred in their original resting places once the site has been stabilized and is no longer at risk of erosion.

St. James Cemetery started using the 200-metre wide site back in the 1960s, but the hilltop has been slowly eroding and so the decision was made for the project to take place. It is thought that it will be completed by spring, at which point the cemetery intend to hold a ceremony to commemorate the reinterment.

The large scale of this project shows just how far cemeteries are willing to go to ensure that the resting places of those interred are preserved. It also highlights the problems that cemeteries may face because of their chosen burial sites.  A cemetery site on a hilltop overlooking a picturesque view makes for an ideal place to visit your loved-ones who have been laid to rest, but could also prove challenging if an issue such as the erosion seen at St. James Cemetery arises.

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Andrew joined the team at Canadian Funerals in 2017. He heads up the content management for the website.