Updating legislation for Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries

Hon Doug Downey, MPP
Attorney General

Hon. Ross Romano, MPP
Minister of Government and Consumer Services.

Donna Skelly, MPP,
Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General

Bob Bailey, MPP,
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services

RE: Updating legislation for Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries

Dear Ministers and respective Parliamentary Assistants,

The Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA) is a non-profit, volunteer organization comprised of over 30 member organizations.  Its residents’ association members include at least 200,000 Toronto residents within their boundaries.  

We are writing to express our strong support for the proposed legislation (Bill 74, Mount Pleasant Public Cemeteries Act, 2021), introduced by Jessica Bell, MPP, that will update and modernize the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries Charter, which dates from 1871.The legislation is in desperate need of modernization to bring it up to today’s standards of accountability and transparency. This new bill will repatriate the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries back to the people of Ontario, safeguarding what the public originally created.

The Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) encompasses 10 public cemeteries (including the Mount Pleasant Cemetery itself) and 1,222 acres around the GTA.  Many former Toronto residents, now deceased, are buried there.  The MPGC was publicly established through statute in the 1800s and paid for by public donations. It continues to be publicly supported through its ‘tax-free’ status by all levels of government. Unfortunately, there has not been an updating of its legislative charter since 1871.

In a 2018 Court of Appeal Decision, in the absence of legislative clarity, the Court found that there was no longer any legislative barrier to stop the MPGC board from using this public asset for private purposes: 1) there is no longer any method for public participation on the board; and 2) government oversight by the Public Guardian and Trustee is now removed. The effect of the judgment is that the eight private individuals on the MPGC board have control of a substantial public asset.

However, the decision does make clear that the provincial Legislature has the power to update MPGC’s 150 year old charter – and return it to the people of Ontario. The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the Court of Appeal decision that: MPGC is a public trust; the trust belongs to the legislature of Ontario which can change it as it sees fit; and the legislation is public.

We urge your government to support Bill 74 to update the MPGC’s historic charter, and return ownership, accountability and transparency of “Upper Canada’s First Public Ownership Trust” back to the people of Ontario.

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

cc: Jessica Bell, MPP