A Grave Mistake: Burial sites in Fernie vanish amid new development
Amidst its postcard perfect views, the city of Fernie, B.C. is also the backdrop for a century old mystery.
A number of old burial plots in the scenic city are missing, and new developments may be to blame.
Decades ago, a large cemetery existed, but over time the boundaries got blurred.
Some residents are concerned that remains in the cemetery were unintentionally exhumed as developers, unaware of what lied beneath, built an elementary school.
Adele Dvorak is one person who has been impacted by the missing burial plots.
Her great grandfather died over a century ago, but she has no idea where his remains are today.
“I think he would be horrified to think ‘hey, I was put here to rest for eternity, but I am no longer where I am supposed to be,’” says Dvorak.
“Where is he?” she asks.
“He died in Fernie and was laid to rest. Is he still at rest? I’d like to know where he is.”
Vern McGarrigle was one of the workers that helped build the school in the 1970’s.
“First time they found remains, we shut the job down,” says McGarrigle. “Authorities didn’t let us go near it, and that was it.”
“So the next two, three, four times they found remains… they never called anybody. They just pushed them aside and buried them so they were out of sight out of mind.”
“That was the way it was,” says McGarrigle. “Nobody wanted to stop work because the kids were eating, and when you stop working you lose some of the pay cheque.”
After the school was demolished, the land was sold to a private developer.
It’s not known if the school’s history was ever disclosed, but the buried bodies were disturbed for a second time.
“I watched them remove the bones,” says Dot Gildea. “It was a grown man and a baby and they putting them in the bag.”
In 2008, luxury homes started going up.
During the excavation, skeletons were found.
The majority of the lots have been purchased, except where evidence of remains were uncovered.
The development sits as a vacant space in middle of the most sought-after suburb in the city.
Despite repeated efforts to contact the developer, he would not speak to Global News.
The City of Fernie is working on getting approvals to hire a company for ground penetrating radar, to help narrow down how far the bones are scattered.
They’re also considering some kind of public memorial.
Meanwhile, some Fernie residents are working tirelessly to expose the truth and find out just how many people’s remains have gone missing.