A recent decision of Justice Dunphy recounts the wonderful history of Toronto’s cemeteries which ultimately grew into the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries.
The decision begins at the beginning:
Forty-one years before Canada was launched as a nation and six years before the City of Toronto was incorporated, Thomas Carfrae the younger, Peter McPhail and a number of other inhabitants of what was then known as the Town of York brought a petition to the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. York’s population had surged after the War of 1812. It was approaching 2,000 and was still growing. However, it had only a Catholic and an Anglican cemetery while people of all faiths were arriving daily. They had passed the hat at a number of public meetings and raised $300 – a sum of money sufficient to purchase six acres of land a mile outside of town at the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor. Their goal: to purchase the land and hold it for the purpose of a “general burying ground, as well for strangers as for the inhabitants of the town, of whatever sect or denomination they may be”. They judged that due to the recent rapid growth of the town “and the small portions of ground … allotted for the purpose of cemeteries”, there was a need.
They judged correctly. Their petition to the Legislative Council of Upper Canada found favour and a statute named “An act to authorize certain persons therein named, and their successors, to hold certain lands for the purposes therein mentioned” was duly passed and received Royal Assent in 1826: Acts of U.C. 7 Geo. IV, c. 21. The land that came to be known as “Potters Field” was purchased and started operation as a cemetery soon afterwards.
The cemetery group became known as the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries. It has grown to include 10 cemeteries, 4 crematoria, 14 mausoleums and 5 visitation centres on 1,222 acres of land containing the resting place of 600,000. The Mount Pleasant location arboretum is said to be “one of the finest tree collections in North America”. “Practically every tree that will grow in this climate is found here.”
The decision, Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries Inc. v. Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, 2018 ONSC 7711 (CanLII), relates to the current management of the cemeteries. Ultimately, Justice Dunphy found that the current trustees of the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries were not appointed in accordance with the 1826 Act. He also found that some of the operations of Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries went beyond the scope of the statutory trust.
For a video account of the beginnings of Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, click here.
For information about the Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries, click here.
Thank you for reading.