That`s what complaints from Mount Pleasant neighbours crying out for crematoriums to be 300 meters away from residences seem to be suggesting or even outright saying; but perhaps this is an overly simplistic summation of what some consider to be a serious controversy. Apparently, at the root of the complaints are health concerns about crematoriums’ emissions. Still, many have been left wondering whether the concern is valid and reasonable.
A new city bylaw requires at least 300 metres of distance between new crematoriums and homes. However, Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Crematorium has just received approval for new cremators, despite being built only 16.5 meters from the neighbourhood in 1972. It has been reported that the new cremators will not only allow for more frequent burns but also greatly reduce emissions. Reactions to the complaints fall along a wide spectrum. Some admire the natural beauty of the cemetery, disturbed that complainants apparently fail to see its positive attributes. Some have even said that it is simply the concept of burning human bodies that is so disturbing to neighbours—not any real health concern.
Still others believe that the crematorium should have to abide by the bylaw. Alongside this sentiment is the belief that the science should establish the validity of the concerns. One would think, though, that research and scientific conclusions were drawn to support the creation of the bylaw. This point does raise a lot of questions. Has a scientific conclusion been made that it is dangerous to human health to live less than 300 metres from a crematorium? If it is “dangerous enough”, wouldn’t the residents or the crematorium be ordered to relocate? Why, then, would the bylaw only apply to new crematoriums? In other words, if there is a real danger, then the fact that the Mount Pleasant crematorium was previously legally located wouldn’t suffice in our present day…or would it? It was cited that cremation is a lucrative business and the new cremators will be able to burn more bodies faster. Thus, is this yet another scenario where government is willing to sacrifice health for big business?
The more one thinks about the issue, the more concerning it becomes. Indeed, the existence of the by-law is disturbing and we should look behind it at the science to resolve the issue. Either crematorium emissions are dangerous to human health or they’re not. If it’s not dangerous, then why the bylaw? If it is dangerous, then why does the bylaw only apply to new crematoriums? Are we saying that our health is less expensive than forcing crematoriums or residents to move?
Yes, I realize that I am posing more questions than answering them. In pondering the matter, we are essentially looking at principles of fairness and justice. Is it fair and just for a resident to have to consider moving if they perceive that a crematorium is a real health threat? What if moving is not feasible? Some may answer that the feasibility will be dictated by the level of perceived danger. Clearly this is one of the numerous difficult aspects of living in our modern, complex society.
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