Investments and Burial Lots Protected
SERVICE N.S./MUNICIPAL RELATIONS--Investments and Burial Lots Protected
Officials at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations have inspected the financial records at Forest Haven Memorial Gardens in Sydney and found the burial plan trust accounts to be in good shape.
"I want Forest Haven's clients to know that their money is safe," said Barry Barnet, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "We have been monitoring this situation since late last year to protect consumer interests."
People who bought burial plans contacted municipal and provincial government offices to determine what happened to the money they paid to the cemetery. Families of people interred in the cemetery want to ensure that they will continue to have access to the lots.
The cemetery's owner died in 2003 and those responsible for winding up his estate have been unable to find a buyer for the business. Forest Haven's Newfoundland and Labrador-based operator announced on Feb. 20 that it was closing the cemetery.
The operator will offer refunds to burial plan clients. The government is closely monitoring this process.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations officials remain optimistic that someone will buy the cemetery and keep the business running. Alternately, a non-profit society could be formed by people who already own lots at Forest Haven or who have relatives interred there. Either option is viable. There are commercial cemeteries and society-run cemeteries, as well as municipally-run cemeteries, across the province.
A portion of the cost of each lot is held in trust and can only be used for cemetery maintenance -- any new operator would gain access to these funds. Owners of lots and their families will continue to have full access to the site.
Financial officials with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality recently confirmed that the cemetery is behind in its tax payments and could be part of a spring tax sale. If the cemetery is sold at a tax sale, the site would still be protected. Provincial legislation says that no person may use a cemetery for any purpose other than the burial or permanent placement of human remains or memorialization.
"We recognize that this is a sensitive and emotional situation," said Richard Shaffner, director of consumer and business policy at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "We are seeking the best possible long-term solution for the families involved."
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations licenses and regulates commercial cemeteries and funeral service providers. The department is also responsible for consumer protection.
FOR BROADCAST USE:
Barry Barnet, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, says that clients of Forest Haven Memorial Garden in Sydney should not be concerned.
Service Nova Scotia has reviewed the burial plan trust fund accounts and found them to be in good shape.
Refunds will be available to anyone who purchased a burial plan and a trust fund will help a new operator to maintain the cemetery.
The cemetery's owner died last year and no buyer has been found for the business.