Kamloops council buries funeral plan

The rezoning application failed by a margin of 5-3 at the Kamloops Council meeting

Andrea Klassen

Kamloops This Week

Neighbours on Seymour Street would never have seen the bodies.

Had Drake Smith’s plan proceeded, deceased people would have been driven to the property at 905 Seymour St. in an unmarked van and unloaded in a closed garage.

For the most part, they would have stayed not much more than 48 hours before being taken to Sahali for cremation.

But, for those living in the houses close to the site where Smith hoped to open his funeral-arrangement office, even the thought of living next door to the dead proved too much.

“This is not a happy occasion, facing dead people or being reminded of everything that comes with it — crying, distraught people coming in and out,” said Effat Faridi, who owns a rental property across the street, at a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at City Hall.

“It’s not fair for anyone to be subjected to it.”

Smith, president of North Thompson Funeral Services Ltd., was applying to have the property rezoned to permit a funeral service that doesn’t quite follow the typical funeral-home model.

Instead of hosting memorials or offering embalming on-site, the office would be a place for family and friends of the deceased to make arrangements.

Funerals would be held at churches or community halls.

Smith has a similar setup in Barriere and a full funeral home in Clearwater, where bodies would be transported if embalming was requested.

Under B.C. law, a dead body must be held for 48 hours prior to cremation, Smith said, a service the centre would also provide.

That was a major sticking point for Dick Nguyen, whose home is directly behind the proposed site.

“When you’re of an Asian descent, it’s considered potentially bad fortune when you’re living across from a cemetery or living close to the deceased,” Nguyen said.

Frank Sirianni, who lives next door, said his Italian background and religious beliefs also made the idea of living next to the dead unpalatable.

“I understand business and I know progression has to happen.

“But, this is almost too much,” said Sirianni, who argued his elderly mother would be upset seeing the business next door.

He also expressed concerns about the effect of the business on the already busy laneway behind the property.

Smith said he didn’t think traffic would be a problem at the site.

“Most funeral-arrangement offices, if we have, for example, one client per week come into the funeral home, that’s a normal week,” he said.

“You might have two cars come at a time and they park in those parking spaces the architect has drawn up and they come inside and we talk, then they go away.”

Coun. Pat Wallace said she has concerns about the alley, which she said is “very, very busy.”

Other councillors felt it was important to be sensitive to the neighbours’ concerns surrounding the deceased.

“When the two neighbours on either side are expressing cultural, religious issues with this — while I would not have those concerns — I don’t want to impose on somebody,” said Arjun Sigh.

“I think it would offend too many people,” added Marg Spina.

The rezoning application failed by a margin of 5-3, with councillors Singh, Spina, Wallace, Ken Christian and Nelly Dever voting against it. Mayor Peter Milobar and councillors Donovan Cavers and Nancy Bepple voted in favour. Councillor Tina Lange was absent with an illness.