Soft music fills a massive funeral parlour as dozens of people file in to pay their respects to four lives cut short.
At the front of the room, tiny tea lights flicker beside four white caskets covered in white flowers with little white and purple teddy bears.
It’s powerful and poignant.
Babies Grace, Hope, London and Zenora are being honoured.
“Two or three a month are found in Ontario and those are the ones that are found,” said Ellen Campbell, CEO and founder of Abuse Hurts, the organization laying the abandoned babies to rest, in association with Elgin Mills Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Centres.
Campbell was overcome with emotion as she spoke to the crowd. She has overseen the burials of 11 babies over 11 years.
“The majority of babies, that we know the history is, they’ve been thrown in the garbage or dumpster or left in a suitcase,” Campbell said.
Three of the babies now being buried were found together in a box in London, Ont., in 2009. The fourth baby was abandoned this past Christmas in a Toronto hospital.
“If you abandon that baby in a field or in a dumpster or in a lake, there’s a distinct possibility that that baby is going to die,” John Muise, the director of Public Safety for Abuse Hurt, said.
He and Campbell are pushing for safe haven laws for Ontario, like in the United States, that would provide a safe alternative to infant abandonment.
“It’s just an opportunity to say, ‘You have a safe space that you can go, you can leave that baby safely in a baby box in a hospital,'” he said. “And you can leave that situation no questions asked, nobody is going to judge you, but that baby is going to be alive, that baby is going to be cared for.”
Currently, all 50 states in the U.S. have enacted “Safe Haven Laws” or “Baby Moses Laws,” allowing mothers to leave unwanted babies in designated locations, like churches, without fear of being charged with a crime. It is estimated these laws have saved 2,000 lives over the last decade.
In Canada, Edmonton installed two “Angel Cradles” located outside the emergency departments of hospitals. They are essentially a door which opens to a bassinet with a blanket and teddy bear. Only one baby has ever been left there.
But Ontario’s minister of children and youth services said there is no need for that in this province because the Children’s Aid Society works just fine.
“Currently, the system we have in place ensures that when a mother walks into the child protection agency and can no longer look after that child, the state assumes that responsibility immediately,” Minister Michael Coteau said.
Coteau said he would consider looking at other options, but noted, “even in the jurisdictions in the United States where you have safe havens, you still have children being abandoned in very dangerous places.”
Back at Elgin Mills Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Centres, the four white caskets have been escorted outside with full honour guard.
They now sit on the ground, next to a large monument dedicated to a total of 11 babies abandoned in Ontario and laid to rest.
Teddy bears were placed, along with a single bouquet of flowers for babies Grace, Hope, London and Zenora.