Case closed on monument destruction; church won’t be fined

In this Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 supplied photo, a front-end loader scoops up the rubble of what was a monument to Cornwall settlers at the corner of Sixth Street East and Sydney Streets. The regulatory authority says it won't be levelling a fine against the church. (Supplied via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – The Ontario regulator for cemeteries won’t be levelling a fine against St. John’s Presbyterian Church for removing a memorial last month.

A dump truck and backhoes were brought to the Sixth Street East and Sydney Street site on Aug. 14 where the 1932 monument was quickly levelled.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) CEO Carey Smith said the church is remorseful and has agreed to build another “replacement monument” on the site.

“They know they shouldn’t have done what they did. It’s one of those situations where you can’t take it back once you’ve done it. They can’t restore it,” Smith said.

St. John’s will also be consulting extensively with the public about the replacement for the headstone monument.

“They understand that they’ve let the regulator and the community down and they’re supposed to engage in community consultation about what to do in the future,” he said.

When asked why the BAO didn’t impose a fine, Smith said doing so wouldn’t change the situation and would only hurt a volunteer-run organization.

“They’ve shown a level of concern and contrition and awareness that, yes, we should’ve involved the community, even though it’s on private property. It’s a lot bigger issue than just them. Under those circumstances, I don’t see any value to charging them and levelling a fine,” Smith said.

He said they are “relatively satisfied” there are no remains on the site of the licenced, inactive cemetery.

While the law does have teeth and the BAO has a number of options for sanctions, “what is the public good that comes from de-licencing or closing down a cemetery,” he asked rhetorically.

“This was really a momentary lapse in judgment of destroying a cairn that was built to display old monuments. I acknowledge it can be painful for interment rights holders but, at the end of the day, we’re not talking about desecrating a cemetery per se,” he said.

As far as the BAO’s involvement, Smith said their investigation is closed.