After a court decision that declared 10 Toronto cemeteries is a public trust and not a private not-for-profit organization, the head of the group Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries (FTPC), Margot Boyd, still sees a lot of work ahead after the victory.
On Dec. 31, Ontario Superior Court of Justice Judge Sean Dunphy ruled that the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC), which owns and governs 10 cemeteries covering 1,222 acres of land, including the York Cemetery and Funeral Centre at Beecroft Road and Senlac Road, would be officially considered a public trust and not a private not-for-profit organization.
FTPC, which boasts around 100 members, was formed in 2013 as a result of community concerns that included the construction of crematoria near adjacent homes, the altering of historic cemetery landscapes and an increase in for-profit activity on cemetery land.
The group launched a legal fight that year alleging that the appointment process for the board of directors went against a statute established in 1849, which called for an elaborate three-step process of publicly electing new trustees.
In his statement, the judge, Justice Sean Dunphy, wrote, “None of the current directors has been appointed in compliance with these mandatory rules.”
The seven most senior board members are to remain for now, but citizens have the right to call a meeting and have an election for the positions at a later date.
“I’m elated by the decision, but first things first: we have to plod through this one step after the next, and now we have a lot of unanswered questions,” said Boyd of the FTPC.
Boyd does not know the details of how elections will work or who will be eligible to vote. She has specific concerns regarding a real estate sale she says earned MPGC several million dollars.
“I would like to know, and I think all the people of Ontario would like to know, where that money went,” she said.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, acting as a private citizen, was an applicant in the case alongside FTPC. With MPGC saying that it plans to appeal the decision, Wong-Tam thinks it’s time the city got involved, as much of the disputed land falls within Toronto’s boundaries.
“I intend to proceed with them until we have exhausted every single legal option,” she said.
MPGC did not respond to requests for comment.