A report recommending the adoption of guidelines for roadside memorials in the Halifax Regional Municipality generated heated debate and led to even more questions from councillors at Halifax City Hall Tuesday.
At this time, the municipality has no guidelines that direct the municipality on how to deal with roadside memorials.
The staff report recommended that council direct Jacques Dubé, the Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) CAO, to come up with necessary bylaws that would lay out the rules regarding the setting up and taking down roadside memorials.
In attendance were Marlene Cooper and Kathy Best, who set up a roadside memorial for Cooper’s daughter Kylie when the 15-year-old was killed in a car accident.
Steve Streatch, councillor for Waverley, Fall River and Musquodoboit Valley, said there were some components of the report that were brought forward that made sense, but said there were several other points he said he disagreed with.
“Who are we to tell people how to grieve?” asked Streatch.
Staff had recommended that a memorial only remain in place for one year at a time, but Streatch vocally opposed that proposal.
“I really don’t want to see a one-year component on this,” he said.
Other recommendations included putting contact info on the back of the memorials, as well as placing limits on their size and proximity to the roadway.
Streatch wondered if the forum was appropriate for the conversations and asked mayor Mike Savage and staff if a more robust public engagement session wasn’t necessary.
But staff assured the councillor that their report was only the first step in the process of developing a set of bylaws and guidelines.
“I think it is important to hear from the public,” said Streatch. “There are views on all sides of this and I think all sides have to be respected.”
WATCH: Halifax considering time limits, other restrictions for roadside memorials
Councillor Sam Austin agreed some policy was needed, but warned council about bogging down the issue with too many bureaucratic controls.
Staff listened to the concerns raised by councillors and will now go back and compose a draft bylaw on how to deal with roadside memorials.
Meanwhile, Marlene Cooper was left wondering why council was even discussing this matter in the first place.
“Most of the councilors in there agree: these crosses aren’t hurting anybody,” said Cooper. “I just wish they would let them be.”
Cooper said HRM staff took down her daughter’s cross but she has since reinstalled it.
She visits it each month to lay flowers and says it’s part of the grieving process.
“This shouldn’t even be talked about,” said Cooper. “This is how you remember your loved ones when they are gone.”
The cross and roadside memorial for Kylie Cooper remains along Highway 2 in Wellington N.S.