Families of loved ones buried at Montreal cemetery demand answers over state of grounds

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Families of loved ones buried at Montreal cemetery demand answers over state of grounds
People with relatives and loved ones buried at the Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal are once again angry, this time about the state of the grounds. Some who visited on Father's Day demanded answers after spending the day doing maintenance tasks that they say they pay for. Phil Carpenter has the story – Jun 16, 2024

Katrina Goulo didn’t expect to bring gardening tools to her dad’s grave at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery  on Father’s Day.

She and her mother spent hours clearing her father’s resting place of high brush. They say it’s disrespectful to allow the cemetery, Canada’s largest, to be overgrown with weeds.

“The cemetery looks like it’s been abandoned,” she told Global News. “This is just not right. It’s a disgrace.”

Severino Paolini, who went to visit his father-in-law’s grave and struggled to find his footing through grass and shrubs up to his armpits, agrees.

“Every time we come we can’t even walk around because there’s too much grass,” he pointed out. “You can’t even see the tombstone.”

Jimmy Koliakoudakis who went to pay respects to his parents feels lucky. He said until recently there was a large mound of dirt and gravel in front of his parents’ gravesite, left over from his mother’s funeral last summer. According to him, just two weeks ago he asked some workers nearby to help him get rid of the dirt, which they did.

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“Thank goodness for that,” he declared. “Otherwise, after eight or nine months, it still would’ve been a pile of dirt and rocks.”

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The issue of poorly maintained grounds at the cemetery is the clients’ latest disappointment. A months-long strike by workers, which ended last July, caused a backlog of unburied bodies that took officials months to clear. The labour action also forced the closure of the cemetery for several months.

Clients who had to bear that in 2023 say they are fed up.

“If you’re short on manpower, it’s not the families’ fault,” Koliakoudakis pointed out. “We’re always stuck in the middle where we either have to cut the grass ourselves, flatten or level the soil ourselves.”

Paolini wonders why the cemetery doesn’t hire more help.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t work and they want jobs, so make them cut the grass,” he reasoned. “It’s not too hard.”

Goulo wonders the same thing and says she and her family want answers.

“I don’t know any other cemetery that you come to that looks like this,” she said. “It looks like it’s been abandoned for years. It’s not fair for the families who pay.”

In a statement to Global News, cemetery officials apologized for any inconvenience, saying, “In the past week, more than 880 hours were spent maintaining the cemetery. Despite the challenges posed by this spring’s extraordinary weather and the subsequent backlog, our dedicated teams are committed to maintaining the cemetery’s standards of cleanliness and respect.”

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“We offer our apologies,” they said, adding, they  “affirm our dedication to rectifying these matters. Rest assured, our commitment to the community is steadfast, and we are devoted to providing the level of service you rightfully expect. Your trust is invaluable, and we are here to support you through these trying times.”

However, they did not give a timeline for when the cemetary would be back to normal.


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