November 15th 2022
Renovations and land development is expensive. There is no end to the surprises that could add great cost to your project. No one anticipates uncovering a burial plot when putting in a pool, expanding a driveway, building a deck, or adding a garage to their property. In Ontario, under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 homeowners are required to immediately notify the coroner or police of any human remains discovered on their property. If determined to be of historic or aboriginal origin, then the homeowner is required to provide for an archaeological assessment of the burial, a cost that can quickly be tens of thousands of dollars, all spurred on by a simple bone fragment. Failure to notify can result in imprisonment and fines. Relief is possible under section 96(4) if deemed an undue financial burden by the registrar at the Bereavement Authority of Ontario which administers the provisions of the Act.
This may sound like something from a movie or a concern only in other countries. Unfortunately, it happens regularly to unsuspecting homeowners and developers even in St. Catharines. Consider: the lofts behind the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria ran into around 10 burials at the edge of the property; the Four Pad had a family plot by the driveway (the tombs now on display); the new NRPS station required an extensive assessment due to abutting Salem Chapel. Niagara has an incredibly rich archaeological heritage, a resource shared by all. It is important to do some background research on any property to mitigate this concern. Thankfully, newer structures are less likely to run into these problems as preliminary assessments became required by law under the Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990, Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, and the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your legal responsibilities and options when developing land, please contact Liddiard Law.
Brian Abfal, BA MA