City should stick with current graveyard site


Over the 45 years or so in which some form of municipal government has served the people of Iqaluit, two big headaches have always bedeviled local administrators and elected councils: where to put the garbage and where to bury the dead.

It’s the latter issue that arose, yet again, at an emergency meeting of Iqaluit City Council this past week, on July 13.

Many of you will have read of the ire with which city councillors greeted new financial information related to a site off the Road to Nowhere that — after at least 10 years of aimless consultation and dithering — council voted for in August 2009.

City administrators have since discovered that this site will cost them at least $100,000 more and will likely yield far fewer burial plots than they first estimated. The ground consists mostly of rock, not earth — contrary to the apparent findings of an engineering study done at least seven years ago.

This is not surprising. Much of Baffin Island’s surface consists of glacial till, the mixture of boulders, gravel, sand and clay left behind thousands of years ago after the glaciers melted. This means that just about any other possible graveyard site around Iqaluit, other than some place close to the beach, would likely display the same qualities.

Compared with other fiascos that have brought embarrassment to the Municipality of Iqaluit in the past, this is a minor issue. This is an organization that in 1999 presided over the obliteration of more than $7 million worth of public money spent on a sewage treatment plant that never worked. A few years before that, in a debacle that led to the removal of Iqaluit’s elected mayor and council, they lost track of at least $9 million in territorial water and sewer funds.

The city’s administration is asking only for an additional $100,000 to make the Road to Nowhere site useable. This is not unreasonable. If the city abandons that site, their 10 years of searching, along with the many tens of thousands of dollars they’ve already spent, will have gone to waste.

The Iqaluit council first took on the issue in the late 1990s, when the current cemetery in south Iqaluit turned out be suffering from serious neglect. Residents discovered more than 100 unmarked burial plots and that the remains of some deceased persons had been uncovered and exposed to the elements. And, as most residents know, that site is now full and there is an urgent need to replace it.

It makes no sense for the city to abandon the Road to Nowhere site. All available choices are likely to be located in either pretty places with poor soil or ugly places with good soil. Don’t forget, the city’s first choice for a new cemetery, made in 2004, was a location in the West 40. After spending large amounts of money on consultants, endless consultations and site development work, they abandoned it.

This time, the city should stick to the decision they made in 2009. Bad governments put things off when they get spooked by unwelcome news. Good governments make tough decisions, then act on them. JB

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