Cemetery Bylaw Should be Changed, Cambridge Mayor Says
Greg Mercer, Record staff
Tue Mar 20 2012
The mayor said he’s fielded plenty of calls from citizens angered by news a Hespeler man’s wishes to be buried at New Hope cemetery with a soldier’s grave marker clashes with a bylaw that says that marker isn’t big enough.
The standard Canadian military headstone, used in cemeteries throughout Canada and the world, is three inches thick — five inches too thin for the required dimensions of the bylaw, designed to ward off vandalism.
The family of Capt. Paul “Spike” Zvaniga, who served 28 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force, found that out the hard way after he died of cancer last week.
The mayor said the bylaw — called “ridiculous” by Manon Bourbeau, a liaison to the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa — was never designed to ban soldiers’ headstones.
“There was no intention here to block anybody out. It was an oversight,” Mayor Craig said. “We’re going to correct it to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
City council plans to make an amendment to the bylaw that would allow an exemption in the case of Zvaniga, who wanted to be buried in his hometown.
They’ll also ask city staff to look into ways to change the cemetery bylaw so this problem doesn’t come up again, the mayor said.
“It became very obvious yesterday afternoon we have an issue with the bylaw. There’s an oversight there, obviously,” he said.
He also said Zvaniga’s family should not have had to deal with this added stress while preparing for a funeral.
“We all feel terribly sorry for how this has unfolded and we feel bad we’ve added more grief to this particular family,” he said.
Zvaniga’s son Eric, meanwhile, said the family is just glad the city is fixing the bylaw.
“My hope is it’s not just an exception for my father, but an amendment that allows other veterans to be buried the way they choose,” he said.
Coun. Rick Cowsill, who represents Hespeler and is a former president of the local Legion branch, said most councillors didn’t even know there was a size restriction for headstones in city cemeteries.
“It’s news to me we even had a bylaw like that, and I’m sure most members of council aren’t aware of it, either,” he said. “I think it’s probably a glitch that nobody thought of many, many years ago.”
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