Group brings green, winter burial issue to Highlands East

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Green Burial Society would like to resurrect the past effort to allow that form of interment in Highlands East.
The municipality had by 2019 sponsored a U-Links research project into green burials. And that showed there was an interest in the concept within the township, said Terry Moore, president of the Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society.
“We watched how that interest grew into a commitment to create a green burial section at the Deer Lake Cemetery,” Moore told council when it met Feb. 13.
Council decided to accept Moore’s presentation as information.
The process to establish that section had been put on hold to explore the possibility of adding a winter burial option at the cemetery.
Moore said his group is ready to help connect township staff with other municipalities that currently practice green and winter burials. The group is “willing to help find practical solutions to the unique problems and barriers you’re grappling with,” he said.
Algonquin Highlands has already committed to establishing both green burial and winter interment sections at its St. Stephen’s Cemetery. The society has been working with those neighbours on the issue since June 2023.
He said there’s hope that municipality’s cemetery bylaw could be amended in time to allow the purchase of green burial plots by this fall.
Algonquin Highlands council has asked staff to return as soon as possible with an operational plan for introducing the winter burial option within the green burial section only.
St. Stephen’s will be the first cemetery in Haliburton County to offer winter burial, as all four townships currently close their cemeteries from freeze up in
November through to the spring thaw.
This means that burial of any kind is simply not available in Haliburton for almost half the year.
Moore said the advisory committee made up of society members and municipal staff are talk about green burial space amenities like gazebos and such.
“Cremation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and the choice of an increasing percentage of Canadians, reaching almost 75 per cent of deaths in 2022,” he said.
“The pandemic almost certainly has accelerated this trend.”
And with no burial options for more than half the year in Haliburton County, cremation becomes the only choice.
“Why would anybody purchase burial rights if they know they can’t use them up to seven months of the year?” he said.
Allowing green and winter burials in Highlands East would allow people a real choice to leave as green a legacy as possible after death.
“Our bodies are not waste to be discarded into the atmosphere but, like all other species on the planet, an essential resource for the biosphere’s endless cycle of death giving birth to life,” Moore said.