On Saturday, January 28th , 2023 a full house of interested Gabriolans attended an event at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre to hear the Gabriola Island Memorial Society’s (GIMS) presentation of their research on green or natural burials.

The Gabriola Green Burial Exploratory Committee was formed in December 2020 at the request of Island Futures, a Gabriola think tank. This Committee was formed based on the awareness that the Gabriola Cemetery, first formed in 1882, only has room for about 10 more full burials, although it still has considerable room for cremation plots. There is also a growing concern t0 find a more environmentally-friendly solution for the respectful disposal of the dead.

This year, the Committee formed the Gabriola Island Memorial Society to further the research and implementation of a green burial site on Gabriola. Several members of this new Society gave their own personal reasons for wishing to have access to a natural cemetery here on Gabriola. The desire is to have an area of land, preferably up to five acres, to allow for the burials, and areas for community memorialization as well as the celebration of life and death, equipment storage, walking trails, places to sit or even picnic. This site would be open to use by current and former residents of Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcey Islands and their families. The emphasis will be on affordability, keeping the costs sustainable to cover expenses. This will be a community resource, not a commercial entity.

Some burial features were discussed as possibilities. For example, there is a tradition of using cedar bows and sword ferns beneath and above the body. There are a number of alternatives for moving and interring the body. There could be a cardboard box with handles, lined with a wooden board with the body wrapped in a shroud of natural cotton or hemp; or the shroud wrapped body could be placed on a wooden trundle with handles or in a wicker coffin made from willow. Many areas remain to be decided with input from the community, such as the ability to reserve a spot, the use of stone markers, etc. All of this represents a change in our attitude toward both death and the planet.

The presentation was very informative and interactive, with contributions by Elfi Shaw, Maureen Wild, Alison Fitzgerald, and further discussions with Gary and Mary Holdgrafer, all members of the board of the Gabriola Island Memorial Society. For
more information, please visit the Gabriola Island Memorial Society Facebook page.