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Sault Ste. Marie gets Muslim cemetery

55 plots set aside for Muslims in discreet, unmarked part of New Greenwood Cemetery
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Sault Ste. Marie has cleared the way for Muslim burials in an unmarked section at city-owned New Greenwood Cemetery at Fourth Line and Peoples Road.

The new section for Muslim interments was disclosed in changes to the city's cemeteries bylaw approved by councillors last week.

Cemeteries manager Roger Nenonen tells SooToday that local Imam Saber Alkilani approached the city a couple of years ago, asking about accommodation for Islamic burial practices. 

With help from Mayor Christian Provenzano, chief administrative officer Malcolm White, Nenomen set aside about 55 plots at New Greenwood.

Care was taken to ensure that the graves face Mecca, and that the Muslim requirement for rapid interment without embalming is met.

Islam prohibits cremation and cremation interments are not permitted in the Sault's Muslim section.

"Muslim interments require the dedicated leadership appointee of the specific Muslim group communicate to the manager or designate the intent to inter at the cemetery," the amended bylaw states.

"The manager shall receive at least 24 hours notice for the time and date of all interments... The manager will work with the Muslim cultural group to recognize their cultural beliefs while maintaining necessary health and safety practices and operational capacities."

Under the just-approved changes, remains may be interred in the Muslim section either in a shroud or a casket.

Described by some as an early form of sustainable burial, coffins used at Muslim interments are usually plain and constructed of biodegradable materials.

Burial places designated for special religious groups are by no means a new thing in Sault Ste. Marie.

The city has also had Hebrew, Catholic and Jehovah's Witnesses cemeteries, Nenomen said, adding that the new section at Greenwood reflects the growth of the Sault's Muslim population in recent years.

"I would like to thank the mayor and Malcolm White for their co-operation." Imam Alkilani told SooToday.

Other, more general changes to the Cemeteries Bylaw include the following:

  • aggregates (stone, gravel, etc.) are not allowed within flower beds, or as an adornment on the ground surrounding a monument, or anywhere on the grave itself. "These materials can present a safety hazard to patrons and workers alike as they can become projectiles when mowing equipment comes into contact with them,” the new bylaw states
  • disinterment from mausoleum crypts are now specifically prohibited for health and safety reasons
  • the city will not buy back interment rights except when the purchaser is acquiring interment rights of a greater value than those currently owed, or when, at the sole discretion of the manager, a grave is unusable, or would benefit the cemetery to re-acquire the interment rights
  • a single columbarium niche is intended for interment of one cremated remains. Interment of two or more cremated remains, or co-mingled cremated remains, is not permitted


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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