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Vernon, B.C. resident files human rights complaint over city cemetery bylaw

Click to play video: 'Vernon man files human rights complaint against city'
Vernon man files human rights complaint against city
WATCH: The City of Vernon's cemetery tribute restrictions recently came into effect. From March 15 to October 15, only fresh-cut floral arrangements in approved tribute holders are allowed to be left at grave plots, but that isn't sitting well with one local resident. He says the bylaw goes against his human and religious rights. Jayden Wasney reports. – Mar 27, 2024

A recent bylaw that came into effect in Vernon, B.C., restricting certain items from being left at grave sites isn’t sitting well with one resident.

From March 15th to Oct. 15th, only fresh-cut floral arrangements placed in approved tribute holders may be left on plots, but Joe Langlois says the bylaw violates his human and religious rights.

“There’s a small group of us that totally disagree with Section 5.5 and 5.6, which restricts religious articles like rosaries, pictures, and religious practices,” said Langlois, a Vernon resident.

“It contradicts any standard of celebrating somebody’s life.”

Earlier this month, Global News spoke with Vernon’s mayor, who said the bylaw was created to keep the cemetery’s groundskeepers safe while working with equipment, especially when members of the public are present. He also stated that the bylaw helps maintain the cemetery’s respectful environment.

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“The cemetery has become a real dignified and respected kind of place, and it’s for all visitors,” said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming.

“In the view of council, it has really improved the quality of our cemetery for all visitors.”

Last March, Langlois created a petition to try and get the city to reverse their decision. But now, he’s taken things a step further. He says he’s filed a human rights complaint against the city.

“It was (filed) online through the province of B.C., but it’s still being investigated,” said Langlois.

“I’ve also approached one firm and they’re very interested in pursuing it.”

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Global News reached out to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Typically, it takes one to two months for the tribunal to decide if it can deal with a complaint, but due to a high volume of complaints, it says it could take nine to 12 months to provide an update on cases recently filed.

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The lengthy delay means it could be a while before Langlois hears back from the city.

“Through the media, the City has been informed of a potential complaint filed to the Human Right Tribunal regarding Cemetery Management Bylaw #5767,” the City of Vernon said in a statement.

“However, at present, the city is unaware of any official complaints filed with the Human Rights Tribunal. As this matter could potentially be under review by the Human Rights Tribunal, it would be inappropriate for the city to comment.”

On its website, the tribunal says it may hold a hearing into a complaint to determine if there was discrimination.

If a hearing is deemed necessary, it may also take approximately six months for the tribunal to make its decision about whether the complaint is justified or dismissed.

As for any items placed on a grave plot that does not meet the criteria, the city says it will remove the items respectfully. Once they’ve been collected, residents can pick them up at the cemetery.

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