The Vision for a Natural Burial Sanctuary in the Cariboo

By Nicola Finch, Cariboo Community Natural Burial Association –

“There is no reason why the plans we make around our own burial or cremation cannot be in keeping with practices that are supportive of nature and mindful of the environment.” —Green Burial Society of Canada

Photo: Nicola Finch

Image: Nicola Finch

The Cariboo Community Natural Burial Association is a new non-profit organization based in Williams Lake. Our purpose is to establish a natural burial sanctuary here in the Cariboo.

Natural or green burial at its most simplistic is direct burial in the ground in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition. There is no embalming, no metal or exotic hardwoods, and no concrete or fiberglass vaults.

We envision a green burial ground for people and their pets that is dedicated to conservation and remembrance, and that features a tumulus or ossuary for the keeping of cremated remains. The sanctuary will include community gathering spaces, a ceremony and celebration hall, forest paths, open areas for meditation and contemplation, an outdoor labyrinth, and a ‘Little Spirits Garden’ like the one at Royal Oaks in Victoria.

The sanctuary, ideally a 10- to 20-acre parcel of land, will be outside of Williams Lake municipal boundaries and within the Cariboo Region of the Central Interior. The sanctuary is intended to serve individuals and families who wish to minimize their impact on the environment in death and will appeal to those who in life embrace the values of conservation and sustainability. It’s about having options.

Currently, there are just two disposition options available at the Williams Lake Municipal Cemetery. The cemetery offers cremation in our local crematorium or an in-ground casket burial with a mandatory fiberglass grave liner. We began last year to lobby the City to include green burial options at our local cemetery; however, the municipal services department at the City of Williams Lake has informed us that our current cemetery location does not have room for expansion for natural burials.

Communities and cities across Canada are forming organizations like ours to establish their own natural burial grounds. It’s admittedly a bit daunting for a small group of community volunteers to take on a project of this magnitude, but we are determined. Consumer Protection BC oversees the establishment of new cemeteries and states that green cemeteries are not considered to be different from any other place of interment in respect to zoning and approvals.

The Denman Island community established the first contemporary green cemetery in Canada, and we will lean on them for any sage advice they have to offer as well as seeking counsel from the Green Burial Council, the Green Burial Society of Canada, and the Conservation Burial Alliance.

In respect to the inclusion of a tumulus or barrow for the keeping of cremated remains, we understand that cremation is not the greenest choice for disposition but that it’s likely to remain the default option for some time to come. According to The Cremation Association of North America, British Columbia rates as the province with the highest cremation rate in Canada at over 70 percent. While all cemeteries offer options for the inurnment or scattering of cremated remains, we would like to see this as a prime feature of the sanctuary in a setting that mimics the beauty of Conservation Burial Grounds.

The seven members on our board of directors are Nicola Finch, Angela Gutzer, Dave Prentice, Laura Dean, Barb Brown, David Finch, and Penny McIntosh. Each board member brings to the table a passion for the environment, a strong personal desire for green burial, enthusiasm to get this accomplished, and a wide range of skills and experience. We invite you to join us in growing our network and in our quest for land and resources to accomplish our vision of green burial in the Cariboo Region. -GG

Visit our website at: www.cariboonaturalburialsanctuary.ca, our Facebook page at Cariboo Natural Burial Sanctuary, Instagram at @cariboonaturalburialsanctuary or email info@cariboonaturalburialsanctuary.ca.

Follow us on Facebook at Natural Burial in BC and Instagram @greenburial_bc .

2 Responses to The Vision for a Natural Burial Sanctuary in the Cariboo

  1. Sounds very positive, keep up the good work. We recently finished developing Heritage Gardens in the Lower Mainland to offer green burial and eco friendly options because you’re right, they are sorely lacking these days! I will be happy to give you a hand with advice or tips on what helped us get started. We opened September 2018 so it’s all pretty fresh! Good Luck you guys!

    • Thanks so much, Trevor. I’m following your work closely and have shared a few Heritage Garden posts on our Facebook page. @cariboonaturalburialsanctuary
      Love what you’re doing down there with the bees and the vegetable gardens as well! I also bought your dad’s book “It’s Your Funeral”. We sincerely appreciate your willingness to give us a hand and you can bet we’ll be calling on you! Thank You!

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