Toronto Is Running Out of Burial Space

The Local looks at the complex dynamics at play in the bereavement industry
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2024 9:30 AM CDT
Toronto Is Running Out of Burial Space
Stock photo.   (Getty/Gerd Harder)

Residents of Toronto who aim to be buried in their city better be planning ahead. Because as Inori Roy reports in the Local, the city is quickly running out of burial space. Advocates have been raising the alarm for years, and the issue is coming to a head. The city has 206 registered cemeteries, of which only 23 are active, and every one of those 23 will start running out of space in 10 to 30 years. "In a matter of decades," writes Roy, "anyone hoping to bury a loved one will have to drive three to four hours north of the city to find a spot." On the other hand, this problem coincides with a general shift toward cremation, and all of the above has been quietly transforming Toronto's "booming bereavement industry." A big focus of the story is the "McDonald's-ization" of the sector, particularly in regard to the city's ever-growing Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries.

Years ago, mom-and-pop funeral homes and cemeteries worked in friendly cooperation, but today, cemetery behemoths like Mount Pleasant aim to handle all aspects of bereavement, from memorial services to burial or cremation. The story explores the ethical and financial issues at play, including Mount Pleasant's unusual and complex public-private nature. And the big picture remains: "It strikes me that, within my lifetime, Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the group's other properties in the city will likely fill up, becoming frozen in perpetuity as monuments to the dead who made it in under the wire," writes Roy. The author tries to envision someone from the present day being tucked in next to someone from the 19th century—"two people buried by the same trust in the same cemetery, in completely different worlds." Read the full story. (Or check out other Longform recaps.)

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