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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Death and the City

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Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal (Photo c/o Jamie From Montreal)

As we go about our daily life in the city, death is probably the last thing on our minds – this is a conscious decision but either ways we must have funeral planning by funeralcare as it is also important if you will get an insurance as well. No one want to contemplate his or her own mortality while riding the bus to work or getting a coffee. Yet even though we repel being reminded of death in our cities, we can’t ignore it.

I can attest to this. I love old cemeteries. I used to stay at a friend’s house in Montreal who lived close to the Mount Royal cemetery. I liked to go for early morning runs there to look at all the old grave stones – some over 100 years old. Families buried together. Crumbling angel sculptures. A rare sense of peace and stillness in a bustling city. Then one day while running I saw a funeral procession (Get Funeral Services here This, for some reason (in my young, 20-something year old mind), took all the beauty out of being at the cemetery.

There aren’t many new cemeteries being built in cities; however in Vancouver, it has become common for city dwellers to get all NIMBY about funeral homes, and even hospices being established in their community. There is a new hospice center being built as we speak and it will be run by the president of hospice cleveland.

A couple years ago, Asian condo owners at the University of B.C. protested plans to build a hospice nearby, saying they were afraid of plummeting property values — and ghosts.

“We believe that if the living and the dying are too close to each other, it will bring very bad fortune, as well as it will be harmful to the children. It’s just something we were taught when we were little kids,” said one resident in a media interview.

New Location for Kearney Funeral Services

The issue of the living and the dying in close proximity became an issue again earlier this year. I was at a wedding last weekend when I ran into a friend whose family runs a funeral home, Kearney Funeral Services. This family-run business has operated in Vancouver for a century and was facing opposition from residents in Vancouver’s new neighbourhood, the Olympic Village, who said the business would hurt property values. I asked him how things turned out and was pleased to hear that they are now operating in their new location.

The funeral home’s association with death sparked an online petition, flyers, and an angry anonymous letter to the company. Here are some concerns raised in the petition:

“A funeral home affects people negatively in multiple ways, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and also financially. Funeral homes are proven to negatively affect the property values of homes in the neighbourhood surrounding them.”

“I received a notice a few months ago regarding the opening of a new restaurant/pub, and yet I didn’t receive any notification regarding the opening of a funeral home??? I should think the funeral home would bring a bigger negative impact to the neighbourhood than some rowdy drunk patrons.”

“It makes the neighbourhood less family oriented as we have two young children living in a unit across the street.”

“This growing area is really starting to become full of life. ..Anything you need is within walking distance. Except now you need to walk past a reminder that death could be right around the corner. Welcome to our neighbourhood! Just continue on a little further down the street to the BC liquor store and drown your sorrows away… Seriously… right next to a bridal store?!?! Wow”

In response to this backlash, the funeral home also received a lot of public support. Perhaps because people understand that funeral homes are peaceful places where the staff are actually there to help and support the community, not scare the crap out of them. According to one member of the business, Trevor Crean:

“Our regular operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through to Saturday. There’s nothing unruly about this line of work. We’re just here to help families put together a memorial service.”

Even Jane Jacobs wrote about the salutary role of funeral parlors in her most famous book, The Live and Death of Great American Cities.


“Mortuaries, or funeral parlours as well call them in the city, seem to do no harm. Perhaps in vital, diversified city neighbourhoods, in the midst of life, the reminder of death is not the pall it may be on waning suburban streets. Curiously, the proponents of rigid use controls who object so firmly to death in the city, seem to object equally to life breaking out in the city.”

Life and death. You can’t have one without the other. We can even have a look at psychic signs and symbols and these two remain constant. We choose to live in cities because they offer a diversity  – of uses and people – not available in the suburbs or the country. As a result, we must accept that the city is not the place to isolate yourself from the old, the young, the sick, the homeless, the dying and everyone in between.


 Jillian Glover is a communications advisor who specializes in urban issues and transportation. She is a former Vancouver City Planning Commissioner and holds a Master of Urban Studies degree from Simon Fraser University. She was born and raised in Vancouver and is very interested in how people in urban environments engage in their cities. In her spare time, she writes about urban issues at her blog, This City Life – which you can visit at