July 15, 2021
For 105 years, members of the Salvation Army have gathered at Plot R, Lot 21 of Mount Pleasant Cemetery on May 29th. They read scripture, sing hymns to the music of the Salvation Army Band, and join in remembrance of the lives of 167 of their members who perished in one of the worst maritime disasters in history: the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland. This century-old tradition was one of many memorials disrupted in 2020 – memorials that hold significance not only to the communities affected, but to all of Canada. The tragedy commemorated each year by the Salvationists was truly felt across the nation, as 1,207 people lost their lives in 14 terrible minutes. The Empress of Ireland entered service in 1906, ferrying passengers from British and Irish ports to Quebec City, where many would begin new lives in Canada. Its capacity was more than 1,500 across four decks, and its 95 voyages would bring nearly 120,000 people across the Atlantic. Today, about one million Canadians can trace an ancestor to this ship. On its 96th voyage, tragedy struck. The Empress of Ireland departed Pointe-au-Pere on the St. Lawrence River in the early hours of May 29, 1914, on its way to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the open ocean. In the distance the crew could see the approaching lights of the SS Storstad, a Norwegian coal ship of considerable size. But as the vessels neared, a thick fog descended on the river. The crews, vision shrouded, desperately began to blow fog whistles to avoid collision. They were to no avail. The Storstad’s prow collided violently with the Empress, tearing a wide gash in its hull through which water began to flood. Many in the lower decks were immediately drowned in the deluge, as those on the upper woke to chaos and scrambled toward lifeboats. However, the Empress listed to one side so severely that the boats could not be launched. Six minutes after the collision, a power failure cast the ship’s halls into darkness. People leapt into the freezing river while the Storstad attempted to save as many as they could. Only a few hundred were pulled to safety as the ship sank fully beneath the water just 14 minutes after the collision. The catastrophic loss of life rippled across the country and around the world. For the Salvation Army, the loss was overwhelming. The Salvationists aboard had been officers on their way to the army’s World Congress in England, with most of the leadership and the entirety of the band among the passengers. Just eight survived. Witnesses spoke of the heroism of the Salvationists in helping to evacuate others, recounting stories such as Bandleader Leonard Delamont giving his life jacket to his mother, ultimately saving her and his young sister. On June 6, 1914, a memorial service was held in the old Mutual Street Arena in Toronto, followed by a funeral procession that wound its way through crowd-lined streets to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where 16 victims were already interred in the Salvation Army plot. Six more would join them in the following weeks. In 1916, a monument dedicated to the victims was unveiled, designed by Salvation Army Major Gideon Miller and sculpted by Emanuel Hahn. Visitors to Mount Pleasant Cemetery can read the 167 names of the men, women and children it commemorates. We are honored to hold a place for their memory through eternity, as we are honoured to do so for so many other places of remembrance. They stand as a testament to the fact that behind any historical tragedy of such scale are individual lives that must be counted, remembered and celebrated long after they were lost.   This article first appeared in the MPG Year in Review 2021.
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June 15, 2021
To experience the loss of a loved one during a pandemic is to have grief compounded by challenges that would be unimaginable at any other time. Unable to be at the side of their family members during their last moments, and unable to come together in the days that followed, families have had to navigate compromise and limitations during an already overwhelming time. But with them every step of the way have been our colleagues, offering what support and guidance they can. This is just one of the many, many stories we have been honoured to be a part of.

“My mum was bigger than life.”

Judy’s mother had always been surrounded by love. A fixture of her Chinatown community (as a one friend put it: “She was Mrs. Chinatown”), her friends and family extended across the city and far beyond. In normal times, her passing and her funeral would have been attended by many. Instead, Judy’s family could only join her hospital bed remotely when she passed peacefully in January of 2021. She had left them with plenty of instructions for the arrangements. “She wanted it to be something grand,” Judy recalls, “The hardest part was that we couldn’t give her what she wanted for her final goodbye.” But some of the requests could be accommodated immediately: in lieu of flowers, Judy’s mother had asked that donations be made to the hospital that cared for her. They came flooding in.

“Afterwards, we couldn’t even get together for a meal to honour my mum,” 

Unsure of how to proceed, Judy reached out to her old friend Linda, one of our funeral managers, for guidance. Together, they immediately began to make the arrangements. The service they created would blend traditional Chinese practices with her mother’s Catholic faith, and be webcast live to allow her community to join remotely. They were determined to ensure that despite the restrictions, they would uphold the traditions and ceremonies that meant so much to the woman they love.

“We ran the service as though there were 100 people there.” 

A priest officiated for the small gathering at Elgin Mills chapel, dividing the service into two separate sections to allow more family members to be there without exceeding limitations on attendance – only 10 individuals were allowed at the time it was held. That left the family with the awful decision of choosing who could attend. Grandchildren were prioritized in accordance with tradition. Judy’s family brought ceremonial blankets, known as pei, to lay upon their mother and grandmother. It is a gesture of gratitude, symbolic of the blankets that she swaddled them in when they were children. While the ceremony itself celebrated a life well-loved, the absence of so many could not be truly replaced.

“It doesn’t feel as though it’s done. You don’t get that closure.”

The ceremonies we share to honour the departed hold great significance, but it is the act of sharing them that makes them so integral to processing grief. For Judy, the inability to gather even for a shared meal or wake has left the loss feeling open-ended. Food and tokens of love left at her family’s doorsteps and front porches by the community helped somewhat to bridge that isolation, but ultimately could not replace the intimacy and support of a true congregation. Judy describes feeling lonely, empty, and exhausted by the compromise and sacrifice — all feelings echoed by so many families like hers. 

“It’s a no-win situation. Everyone is trying to do their best.”

For funeral directors, meeting the needs of the family has always been the highest priority. Last year added a second, equally important commitment: safety. Throughout every ceremony and service, funeral teams have worked to ensure that one tragedy does not become another. That has meant presenting customers with the kind of difficult decisions that Judy and her family faced – who can attend and who will join remotely? How can we ensure that elderly or vulnerable family members can be there safely? And if word comes back that someone in attendance has tested positive, how can funeral teams become contact-tracers, moving quickly to prevent an outbreak that could further disrupt services and memorials at that location? Linda put it simply: “We have all been learning as we go.”  This has been a year that redefined the process of grief for people on both sides of the ceremony. It has shown people just how vital it is to navigate the process together, and may ultimately affect how we grieve for years to come. What those changes may be are yet to be seen, but Mount Pleasant Group will continue to be here, offering what choice and solace we can. Judy hopes that her family will soon be able to come together for another celebration of her mother’s life once our communities fully return to normalcy.  
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June 15, 2021
When the first crematorium opened in Ontario at the Toronto Necropolis in 1933, cremation was used in only 0.55% of Canadian funerals. Today that number is 70% in the GTA. And by 2031, we predict it will rise to 80%. In less than a century, the funeral traditions of our city have transformed. Few elements of our world have shaped human history quite like fire. As much tied to life as it is to light, it warms, protects and nourishes us. For as long as we’ve gathered our families around the campfire, flame has also helped us say farewell to those we love. The earliest evidence of cremation, “The Mungo Lady,” was found at Lake Mungo in the Willandra Lakes Region of Australia in 1968. Scientists have estimated that her ritually burned remains date back more than 40,000 years. In classical antiquity, the Greeks and Romans both favoured cremation to help deliver their dead to the gods with reverence. Funeral pyres in the ancient world, often comprised of cedar, would frequently include other sacred offerings such as wine or herbs. As Christianity spread across Europe, the popularity of cremation receded in the western world. Many Christian sects believed that it would interfere with the resurrection of the body and its reunification with the soul, and so prohibited the practice. Elsewhere, the tradition has endured for millennia. In Hinduism, cremation has always been the preferred funerary rite for most adults, with burial often reserved for children or ascetics who have renounced all things earthly. The Buddha’s own cremation is detailed in the holy text The Mahaparinibbana-Sutta, and it remains the ritual of choice for many Buddhist funerals today. The 19th century saw an evolution in the western world’s opinion of the act. Professors at the 1869 Medical International Conference in Florence resolved that it would be critical to “public health and civilization.” At the time, there was not a single crematorium in Europe. But when a “cremation furnace” was revealed at the 1873 Vienna Exposition, the idea began to spread. It wasn’t until 1885 that the first cremation took place in Britain ⁠— and only three were conducted there. But as the 20th century dawned, cities blossomed in size and population, making sanitation a greater priority and space a scarcer commodity. Societies became far more mobile as people flocked to those cities and families spread across greater distances than ever before. Cremation allowed remains to be easily transported back to hometowns or even shared between families. Since Donald B. Hopkins became the first person cremated in a Mount Pleasant Group cemetery on November 21st, 1933, demand for cremation options in the GTA has only increased. In the two decades between 1996 and 2016, Toronto’s South Asian population, which overall tends to prefer cremation, grew by more than 225%. Today, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities continue to represent three of Toronto’s fastest-growing demographics. As Catholic and Protestant faiths have become more open to the practice, their parishioners request cremation with far greater frequency. Just as new expectations inspire new services, they also guide our investments in innovation. In recent years, we’ve focused on ways to reduce the carbon footprint of our funeral services. This has led us to introduce technologies that eliminate nearly 100% of the greenhouse gases and particulate matter generated by cremation. At the same time, upgrades to our facilities have dramatically reduced the amount of fossil fuels required to operate crematoria systems. As we look to our future, we know that cremation services will remain a core part of what we offer our community. But experience tells us that why and how we choose to cremate our loved ones’ remains may change with every generation, and the living history of this ancient tradition will continue.
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June 15, 2021
Cemeteries have the potential to be urban oases, where we turn off from the hectic streets to find ourselves under leafy boughs. As Torontonians, we know how important these spaces are to the health and soul of our city, so we’ve always invested in ensuring our properties remain green. One of the finest collections of trees in North America can be found in our Mount Pleasant Cemetery Arboretum, with over 120 genera spanning more than 600 species. Nearly every tree that can grow in Ontario has a place at Mount Pleasant. The expansive property between Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue offers generous soil for mature trees to flourish, and the resulting microclimate helps provide an environmental buffer perfect for more sensitive, exotic species. This year, we’re proud to announce that the cemetery has achieved Level II Arbnet accreditation. Founded in 2011, Arbnet is a global network dedicated to supporting the development and sustainability of aboreta of all kinds, from botanical gardens to city parks. It has accredited more than 200 arboreta across 20 countries since its inception, establishing international standards for professionalism, diversity and more. To secure the Level II accreditation, Mount Pleasant Cemetery was judged against criteria such as number of species, public access, dedicated arboretum employees and educational programming. History in Green In 1873, the original farmer’s field that would become Mount Pleasant Cemetery was transformed by architect Henry Engelhardt into a park-like space complete with trees, shrubs and pathways “for the enjoyment of the public.” Trees on the east side of the cemetery were placed in a traditional linear layout while the west side mimics natural forest patterns. The cemetery quickly became a popular attraction for the city, and today still draws families, athletes and ecologists from around the world. Diverse Species The hundreds of varieties of trees in Mount Pleasant Cemetery form two groups: native and introduced. These range from the rare castor-aralia and Babylonian willow to oaks that were mature when Mount Pleasant Cemetery was founded. As trees are removed due to old age, disease or safety, we try to replant with a species that will complement its neighbours. A Living Collection Records of every tree are collected and updated with accurate GPS coordinates through ArbroPro software. Each new entry is given a unique tree ID number, while traits such as height, number of stems or units, and health are recorded to observe collection changes through growth and changing environmental conditions. Educational institutions and botanical gardens have access to all the information upon request. Woven into the City Mount Pleasant Arboretum is accessible to the public 365 days a year, and links into municipal trails, ravines and parks, including the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail, the Vale of Avoca, and the Moore Park Ravine. We’ve nurtured a strong relationship with the City of Toronto as well as the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), collaborating closely to further shared community and environmental objectives. Balance and Sustainability Of course, the need for natural space must always be considered alongside the need for burial space, as trees can restrict the availability of salable land for plots. But we firmly believe that the Mount Pleasant Arboretum has helped Toronto live up to its green reputation as “a city within a park.” That’s why we’ve invested in ensuring the sustainability, variety and maturity of its tree life for years to come.  
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June 15, 2021
In 1851, a 21-year-old Prussian immigrant stepped off the docks at Baltimore Harbor and began a career that would transform parks and cemeteries across North America. His name was Johann Heinrich Engelhardt, though he  would later change it to Henry Adolph Englehardt after his father. H.A. for short. H.A. Engelhardt’s life’s work would culminate with the design and creation of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and his continuing influence on our own work can be felt today. A civil engineer by training, Engelhardt’s talent lay in landscape architecture, the art and science of designing outdoor spaces for practical use, aesthetic beauty, and environmental sustainability. As a young architect, he contributed to the design of New York’s Central Park, and spent years in North Carolina and Virginia before immigrating to Canada in 1870. His reputation was such that in a letter to the Belleville Intelligencer in 1872, the author “Cranky” bemoans the city’s sloppy approach to tree-planting at the courthouse, sarcastically wondering why they did not “Engage Engelhardt or some other equally talented landscape gardener — Nonsense, what more could he do? What does he know more than the ‘twenty-five-cent tree councillor’?” Perhaps accountable for this fame, Engelhardt’s 1872 book, The Beauties of Nature Combined with Art, laid out his vision for what a cemetery can be: “Well may that city or town be proud, that can boast such a ‘city of the dead.’ Strangers visit such places with interest, while relatives and friends are led to higher and nobler aspirations, as they meditate amidst such places of solemn and yet graceful attractions...” To Engelhardt, cemeteries should be open places, free from the low metal fences common to British cemeteries of his day that “marred the harmonious appearance.” Any changes to the landscape “should agree and conform to the natural features of the place.” These perspectives continue to guide our approach to design, though we don’t always agree with his assessment that monuments risk giving a cemetery “the appearance of a marble yard.” In 1874, the Toronto General Burying Grounds Trust engaged Engelhardt to design a cemetery that would sit at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. So pleased were they with his work that in 1875 he was offered the position of the new Mount Pleasant Cemetery’s first Superintendent, which he held until 1888. Engelhardt transformed the rough land, once called a “thistle farm,” laying out curved, sweeping roadways, ordering trees from nurseries across the country, and even damming a creek to create a series of small lakes. While the latter were filled by earth from the excavation of the nearby subway in the 1950s, nearly every element was designed to stand the test of eternity. The principles that guide his work still hold true: create a place around which a city and its neighbourhoods can grow, designed for beauty while in tune with nature, and made for both those who visit and those laid to rest. Simple and enduring.   This article originally appeared in MPG's Year in Review 2020.
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June 15, 2021

“We think that to perpetuate sectarianism even beyond the grave is very preposterous…”

With those words, William Lyon Mackenzie called for the creation of a new kind of Canadian cemetery: one open to any denomination or belief, run by communities rather than religious organizations. Potter’s Field was among the first, established in 1826 at what would become the corner of Bloor and Yonge streets. But as “Muddy York” grew into Toronto in the middle of the 19th century, many of the 6,700 remains interred there were moved to an 18.25-acre site to the southeast of Potter’s Field: the Toronto Necropolis. This move is one of our city’s earliest examples of a challenge that runs throughout our industry. How do you serve the needs of a rapidly growing community — not only today but into eternity — while avoiding such disruptions as re-internment? We’re answering that question by bringing new life to a treasured piece of our city’s heritage. Nestled in the leafy heart of Cabbagetown, the Necropolis has been a quiet place of reflection amidst breathtaking architecture for more than 170 years. Its chapel, lodge and gateway are exceptional examples of the Gothic Revival style famous for pointed arches and elaborate trims. Mackenzie would be pleased that resting at the Necropolis are remarkable Canadians of every creed, background, and age — himself included. Among its memorials are those to mayors and athletes, war heroes and entrepreneurs. Here are just a few worth finding on your next visit.   Lucie and Thornton Blackburn  After escaping slavery in the United States, this couple founded Toronto’s first taxi company in 1837. Kay Christie A Canadian Nursing Sister stationed in Hong Kong during World War II, she was captured by the Japanese and documented her experiences as a prisoner of war. Anderson Ruffin Abbott The first Black Canadian-born doctor, Anderson served as a surgeon in the American Civil War and became a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. George Brown Journalist, politician and Father of the Confederation, George Brown founded The Globe newspaper in 1843, which would become The Globe and Mail. Joseph Burr Tyrell This geologist, mapmaker and archeologist discovered the first Albertosaurus fossils and helped spark the “Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush.”   The Necropolis is more than just history: it’s an active cemetery where families continue to be buried. But not only is it our oldest property, it’s also our smallest. We anticipate that the Necropolis will no longer be able to offer full-sized burials within the next five to ten years. So to ensure it can serve our community tomorrow, we’re developing solutions that respect the historical significance and architectural heritage that makes the property special. In 2019, we introduced a new bank of niches to the Necropolis’ chapel as part of an ongoing initiative to provide more options for burial at the cemetery. Our design was inspired by the existing marble banks that run along the chapel’s perimeter walls, and the management team was careful to ensure that that every element was crafted in accordance with the chapel’s distinctive style. This approach may be unique to the Necropolis, but it reflects the balance of heritage and service that we seek to strike across our properties. By embracing our history, we help it continue into the future.    
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June 15, 2021
In May of 2019, the Mausoleum of the Madonna at Beechwood Cemetery opened its doors on a new chapter as the second phase of its development reached completion. The elegant two-Storey expansion is 31,645 square feet in total, and introduces 1,200 new crypts as well as 21 geothermal wells, in addition to new services and client experiences. Each is the result of decades of learning and listening. The Mausoleum of the Madonna is one of four mausolea at Beechwood: its neighbours are the Mausoleum of the Angels, the Mausoleum of the Saints and the original Beechwood Mausoleum constructed in 1990. Early mausolea were often built for a single family or even a single person. But as they grew in popularity, especially among Catholic newcomers in the 1920s, Mount Pleasant Cemetery offered the first communal mausolea in Ontario as an affordable alternative. Old-World Beauty When the Mausoleum of the Madonna’s first phase was completed in 2008, its traditional European architecture set it apart from the three other mausolea of Beechwood. This decision to shift away from the modern aesthetic of its neighbours was inspired by requests from Toronto’s Italian and Portuguese communities for a space that embraced their architectural heritage. The columns, domes and Carrera white marble crypt fronts that helped define phase one can be found throughout the new expansion. Private family rooms featuring Roman-style leather benches and chandeliers are separated from the main corridors by locking glass gates, while an espresso lounge offers a quiet, central hub for conversation and refreshment. Finding a Niche Although the Mausoleum of the Madonna was primarily built to house crypts, we knew when constructing phase one that cremation is an increasingly popular choice. Both phases were designed to incorporate future glass niches so that those who wished for cremation could ensure their remains are close to their families’. The four banks installed in phase one have proven popular, and room for twelve more banks has been set aside to supply future need. Timeless Technology The promise of forever depends on sustainable sources of energy. That’s why we’ve been implementing alternative climate control and power solutions for our facilities since 2010, when we introduced geothermal systems to three smaller columbarium niche buildings at York Cemetery. With geothermal power, the consistent temperatures found deep underground are circulated through fluid-filled pipes to heat or cool the facilities year-round. Madonna Phase Two uses a “vertical, closed-loop geothermal heat pump system” comprised of 21 geothermal wells, each over 250 feet deep, located underneath the new central courtyard. Fluids circulated underground are pumped up to roof-mounted heat exchange units that either warm or cool the air that then circulates throughout the building. Other than the electricity used by the fans, no additional power is needed to run the air conditioning in the summer, and no gas is required for heat in the winter. Lighting throughout all four mausolea utilize LED fixtures activated by motion sensors. The combined result makes the Madonna our greenest mausoleum yet. Space to Reflect and Grow A courtyard now connects the four Beechwood mausolea, inviting visitors to pause for a moment on one of the elegantly curved benches in the shade of carefully curated trees and plants. Each piece of greenery was chosen for its shallow root system to avoid disturbing the geothermal wells below. Both floors of the expansion are connected to the original Mausoleum of the Madonna, while walkways let visitors cross directly to the second floor of the Mausoleum of the Angels and the Mausoleum of Saints. The Madonna may have reached a new milestone, but its evolution is far from over. The cemetery space around the mausolea has been set aside to accommodate further growth.        
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June 14, 2021
Elgin Mills Cemetery turned 40 in 2019. But that doesn’t mean it’s stopped growing. The 143 rolling acres around the headwaters of the Rouge River serve the communities of Richmond Hill, Markham, Aurora and Thornhill.  As some of Ontario’s fastest growing neighbourhoods, they need a cemetery that can keep pace. In 2019, Elgin Mills continued the latest phase of the cemetery’s east side expansion, helping to ensure it can be used by generations to come. Cemeteries don’t simply spring up overnight. It takes 10 to 15 years to identify, acquire, design, approve and develop a cemetery, and often another 15 to 20 years for it to truly become a core part of its community. So what goes into planning and developing a cemetery like Elgin Mills? First, understand the community. Not just where it is today, but where it’s going tomorrow. Population growth is analyzed to determine the need 30 – 50 years into the future while existing cemeteries in the area are assessed to determine if they’re serving the religious and cultural needs of their community — and if that service is sustainable. Plan it out. Long-term urban planning is reviewed to find the best location. It used to be quite simple: cemeteries were built in the farmland that neighboured Ontario towns and villages. Today, provincial plans no longer allow for cemeteries to be developed in agricultural areas and municipal plans rarely account for cemeteries when considering their own growth. It’s often up to us to do the long-range thinking. Location, location. We can’t simply put them anywhere. Cemeteries require a minimum of six feet of earth to allow for burials, and there needs to be at least one more foot between graves and the water table. We conduct a thorough geological review to ensure the right depth of the bedrock along with the right elevation. If the property is too flat, it won’t drain easily. But if it’s too steep, maintenance is difficult. We also need to ensure that it’s accessible both on foot and in vehicles. Naturally wild spaces give the property character, but they shouldn’t take up more than 20% of the land. It’s time to design. Designing a cemetery is a bit like designing a town. There are buildings to be laid out, road patterns and storm sewers to be engineered, water systems to be planned, electrical feeds to be developed, trees to be managed, and environmental stewardship of natural spaces to be prioritized. But ethnicity and religion play a critical role as well. We research customs and traditions worldwide to ensure our clients get the choices they prefer. Seeking approval. Now comes the tricky part. Cemeteries require up to five levels of government approval before development can begin, while municipal approval is reviewed by a minimum of nine departments. Any developments near natural areas are reviewed through the local conservation authority before a permit is issued. If endangered species are identified nearby, approval may be required by the federal Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans as well. Once everything is signed off at the municipal, regional, conservation, and provincial levels, a submission is made to the Bereavement Authority of Ontario to obtain a cemetery operator’s license. Development begins. After all that, it’s not unusual for a decade to pass between the idea of the cemetery and the first shovel in the ground. Then depending on the property’s size and complexity, it could be another one or two years before the first burial as the landscape is altered and facilities constructed. The effort undertaken to create a new cemetery is one of the primary factors in determining the cost of burial, cremation or other funeral services. Another is the fact that cemeteries need ongoing care and support. They change, they adapt, and — like Elgin Mills — they often grow. The time and consideration involved may seem daunting, but unlike shopping malls or skyscrapers, cemeteries are intended to last forever. And forever’s not something you can rush.              
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June 12, 2021
To many people, cemeteries are simply part of the background of our lives. It can seem as though they’ve always existed in our communities, waiting for the moments when we seek the peace they offer. We drive past them on our way to work or enjoy a quiet walk through their twisting paths. But although they may seem timeless, they’re anything but static. They grow to reflect the people who use them, and in doing so endure across generations. The ten cemeteries that make up Mount Pleasant Group (MPG) are perfect examples of how our industry is always evolving to fit the lives of the people we serve. As the GTA and its needs have changed over the past two centuries, so have we.
  • Prior to 1826, cemeteries in what is now the GTA only existed for those of the Catholic or Anglican faiths. Mount Pleasant Group was established in the countryside north of the Town of Muddy York to fulfill the burial needs of all
  • In 1917, we established the first formal veterans’ section in Canada to serve the burial needs of those returning from The Great War. Today, Prospect Cemetery is home to the largest WWI veterans’ section in the country, Pine Hills Cemetery is home to the largest WWII veterans section, Meadowvale Cemetery has the national Korea Veterans Memorial, and York Cemetery has the only memorial in Canada commemorating all Canadian Victoria Cross recipients.
  • In the 1920s, private family mausolea were popular but prohibitively expensive. MPG was the first cemetery in Ontario to construct a community mausoleum where citizens could purchase individual crypts.
Newcomers brought new traditions. And each deserved a place in which to observe them.
  • In response to demand from the growing Italian and Portuguese communities, large mausolea were constructed at several MPG locations. Traditional outdoor crypts evolved into heated, comfortable buildings.
  • After meeting with the Aga Khan in the early 1970s, MPG designed the first Muslim Burial Ground at York Cemetery. Graves were surveyed facing south-east toward Mecca.
  • Cemetery by-laws were updated to allow for greater flexibility and memorialization in keeping with Eastern European customs, and east-facing Orthodox plots were established.
  • With the increase in Asian immigration to the GTA in the 1980s, elements of Feng Shui were introduced when designing interment rights, applying the system of philosophical laws that govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of chi energy.
  • As demand grew for a more natural or “green” form of burial at the turn of the millennium, MPG responded by designing natural burial areas at Meadowvale and Duffin Meadows Cemeteries.
Today cremation has grown to become the preferred choice of about 70% of the GTA population.
  • MPG constructed the first crematorium in Ontario at Toronto Necropolis Cemetery in 1933.
  • In the 1980s, MPG was the first Ontario cemetery to develop a natural scattering garden at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
  • In the late 1990s, MPG designed and opened the GTA’s first Garden of Remembrance and Forest of Remembrance.
  • MPG was the first in the GTA to introduce indoor glass-fronted niches to display urns and personal artifacts.
  • By 2010, geo-thermal and solar technology was introduced to heat, cool and light buildings containing columbarium niches.
  • To reduce our carbon footprint, crematorium equipment was replaced with modern, virtually emission-free technology. Our facilities were also modernized to include comfortable witnessing rooms.
But the most important innovation in our 193-year history happened more than a century ago. In the 1880s, our Board of Directors had the foresight to replace the annual maintenance fee with a one-time maintenance fee, collected at the time a plot was purchased. A percentage of the purchase price from each interment right was deposited into a maintenance account. The interest generated from the maintenance account’s investments was then used to cover the cost of maintaining MPG cemeteries. This shift in thinking proved to be so successful that a Care & Maintenance Fund became a legislated requirement for all Ontario cemeteries beginning in the 1950s. Today our fund has amassed over $450M, the largest fund balance per developed acre of any cemetery organization in North America. It allows us to fulfill a simple promise to those we serve: as times, technologies and communities change, we’ll always be there for their families.    
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June 10, 2021
Our front-line teams connect with GTA families every day, often at some of the most difficult points of their lives. We see firsthand when our neighbours are struggling, and 2020 made that clearer than ever. “Food insecurity,” a term used to describe a family or individual’s inability to rely on where their next meals will come from, has become a critical challenge across our communities. That’s why this year we committed to giving back to fight this hidden crisis. Each of our properties identified local food banks operating in their neighbourhoods, then donated a total of $270,000 to 36 organizations across the GTA. Many food banks had seen the need for their services double or even triple in 2020. One such example is the Weston Area Emergency Support food bank, which saw an average of 660 visits each month prior to the pandemic. By March of 2021, they were averaging more than 2,200. As our staff delivered cheques to each location, they witnessed just how hard their neighbours are working to meet this in difficult circumstances. Restrictions to gathering reduced the number of volunteers available, while the need for safety precautions brought added expense. The result is a strain that can be felt in nearly every neighbourhood we work and live in.  At the end of the day, we believe that neighbours don’t let neighbours go hungry. We were proud to contribute to such remarkable organizations in our community, and humbled by the dedication of their staff.

“WAES would not be able to support the significant increase in need in our expanded community without financial support from generous donors like MPG." - Weston Area Emergency Support

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