OPINION: Bradford needs more cemetery spaces

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The AMJ property on Sideroad 10. Miriam King/Bradford Today

One of the most underappreciated areas of public policy in this province is the increasingly dire need for cemetery spaces.
Throughout the province, including in Bradford West Gwillimbury, existing supply of cemetery spaces is running out. Like any development, adding new sites or spaces takes a considerable amount of time – indeed, cemeteries can take some of the longest development timelines given the sensitivity of the issues involved. There are a lot of intricacies and it is important to get things right.

But the bottom line is that we need more cemetery spaces – and municipalities, the province, the private sector and faith communities all have a role to play to meet this growing need.

I’ve become familiar with this issue given my involvement on St John’s Presbyterian Church’s board of managers, which oversees two historic cemeteries in town.

Tomorrow evening, town council will consider a proposal from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at to add a 15-acre cemetery and 10,000-square-foot visitation centre to their property on the 10th Sideroad, north of the 8th Line.

There are some complications related to the planning parameters of the site that will need to be worked through as part of any potential rezoning.

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But the fact remains that we need more cemetery spaces, and in particular we need to have a stock of cemetery spaces to meet the specific needs of Muslim deceased.

Beyond any particulars of the application, I noticed something intriguing about this proposal.

Let me explain.

When I was growing up in Bradford, our church was on “Church Street”. Now, the 10th Sideroad has become what we might call “the new church street”, with a Jehovah Witness building, St John’s, Bradford Baptist and the Ahmadiyya site. It’s interesting – intriguing even – how this part of town has become a home for so many different faith communities.

The 10th Sideroad used to be called, and for many still is informally called, “Middletown Road”; it makes sense, given it is quite literally the dividing line between Bradford and West Gwillimbury. It’s interesting to me that today the “Middletown Road” is also the street with the most places of worship in our town.

I’ve also had the privilege of working with the Ahmadiyya community across the province through political campaigns in particular. The Ahmadiyya are a conscientious, highly organized community, dedicated to service, and devoted Canadians. There is a growing community of some 800 Ahmadiyyas today in Bradford – and we’re lucky to have them as part of our town.

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