Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery embarks on a significant ecological shift

Montréal, May 6, 2021 – Drawing inspiration from its exceptional location in the heart of Montréal and its responsibilities as a major Mount Royal institutional partner, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is undertaking the most important green shift in its history to reduce its ecological footprint and contribute to biodiversity on Mount Royal, while also respecting, enhancing and developing natural environments.

 

“Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal are the two major institutions that the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal has the privilege of managing. We must ensure the sustainability of these jewels of Montréal's architectural, historical, arboreal and environmental heritage,” says Jean-Charles Boily, CEO of the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal. “Reduction, recovery, recycling and reuse are at the heart of our ecological thinking, fuelled by the desire to innovate and better meet the current and future needs of our clients, visitors and community partners.


Water management – Last year, after carefully considering the environmental impacts of the development and maintenance of its 1.4 million m2 of grounds, criss-crossed by over 33 kilometres of private roads, the Cemetery stopped operating its antiquated water supply system, which wasted water due to frequent breakdowns and leaks. As a first step, 22 water tanks were installed at multiple locations on the site to meet the needs of visitors who wish to landscape or have flowers on their loved ones’ plots. Over the next few years, the Cemetery plans to recover rainwater and runoff water to meet all of its needs and those of its clients and visitors ecologically.

 

Collaboration with partners – The Cemetery also worked in close collaboration with Les amis de la montagne, which organized the first meeting of Mount Royal's institutional owners about the ecological management of their property from a sustainable development perspective on December 1, 2020. This meeting identified the main development issues related to biodiversity and landscape quality on Mount Royal, including landscape and ecological planning, maintenance and waste management, energy efficiency and accessibility.

 

Innovative projects – At this meeting, the Fabrique proposed the implementation of two new development projects: the conversion of a large grassy area (93,000 m2) into a space for native perennial plants and the creation of ecological burial areas that allow people who choose cremation to replace the installation of a monument with the planting of a tree of a quality native species.

 

Support from clients – Given that these two projects had drawn the interest and support of sustainable development experts from the Université de Montréal and Les amis de la montagne, the Cemetery surveyed over 4,000 clients about them in March 2021, as well as about the possibility of making visitors responsible for the recovery of their waste to considerably reduce the volume of residual materials. The families surveyed strongly supported these changes. Indeed, 88% of respondents were in favour of converting large areas of lawn into spaces sown with flowers and native perennials, 81% of respondents supported the project to develop new woodlands to place the ashes of deceased persons under new native-species trees, and 79% of respondents were in favour of visitors recovering residual materials.

 

Changes coming in 2021

Starting in 2021, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery will undertake a multi-year plan that will focus on an in-depth review of its development and maintenance practices to:

  1. Continue to reduce its consumption of fuel, energy, abrasive products and water, as well as the pollution associated with its maintenance activities.

  2. Improve its contribution to biodiversity on Mount Royal through the implementation of new initiatives that meet the needs of its clientele and the aspirations of its partners.

  3. Respect, enhance and develop quality natural environments (flora and fauna) in a sustainable way.

Large unmowed areas – “The conversion of one of our large grass areas, which will not be used for burial for several generations, begins this year and will continue over a period of many years. These areas will no longer be mown in the summer. They will be mowed in the fall, and the grass cuttings left to nourish the soil. A scientific process will also be undertaken with Université de Montréal sustainable development experts to plant and evaluate the growth of various plant combinations in four test plots at the Cemetery. This research will allow us to choose the plant combinations (grasses and wildflowers) that will be planted in the coming years,” says Alain Dussault, Director of Operations.

 

Remembrance Grove – “We’ve identified ecological burial areas and will soon announce a first site dedicated to people who choose cremation (approximately 75% in 2020) and who prefer, as a commemorative gesture, the planting of a tree of a quality indigenous species over their ashes. At the entrance to the site, which will gradually become a wooded area, the names of the deceased associated with each of the trees will appear on a monument,” said Éric Choinière, Director of Sales and Customer Service.

 

Recovery and recycling – The Cemetery will recover the majority of trees that need to be felled, as well as all branches and leaves, and convert them into soil amendment resources to improve the quality of the soil used for various plantings.

 

About La Fabrique de la Paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal

The Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal is a non-profit organization whose history goes hand in hand with that of the city of MontréalMontréal. The Fabrique oversees the healthy development of the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal. Based on a vision, quality customer service, professionalism, rigour and teamwork, the Fabrique manages its activities in a rigorous manner to ensure its sustainability and meet its long-term obligations.

 

About Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery

Since it was established in 1854, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has welcomed nearly one million deceased persons in a unique 343-acre site renowned as Canada’s largest cemetery. A national historic site, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is a place of peace and remembrance, as well as a jewel in Montréal's architectural, historical, arboreal and environmental heritage.

 

For information:

Marie-Philippe Mercier Lambert, Communications Coordinator

La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal

mplambert@fabriquenddm.org

438-925-3192

Notre-Dame-des-Neiges clients support sustainable initiatives

Introducing our green plan

Last March, we communicated with our clientele about the new directions we want to implement at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery over the next few years. These orientations will be reflected in the deployment of our green plan which aims to :

  1. Decrease our ecological footprint by reducing our consumption of fuel, abrasive products and water, and the pollution associated with our maintenance activities.
  2. Enhance our contribution to biodiversity on Mount Royal by implementing new initiatives that meet the needs of our clients.
  3. Respect, promote and develop our natural environments (flora and fauna).

 

Orientations welcomed with enthusiasm

This communication included a survey of three questions that illustrate some of the changes we want to implement beginning in 2021 to achieve our green plan, namely:

 

  • Gradually replacing our large lawns with perennial coverings (native grasses and flowers).
  • The development of wooded areas where the ashes of a deceased person will be buried under a selected young tree of a native species to contribute to biodiversity.
  • The promotion of eco-responsibility by having each visitor take responsibility for the management and recovery of their own waste.

Our survey had an excellent response rate and was completed by 762 people, the vast majority of whom were enthusiastic. As we value the opinions of our clients, the responses and comments we received will help us in our reflections over the coming months as our green plan is translated into several new projects this year. 

 

 

Survey results

We are therefore pleased to share the results of the survey here:

 

Question 1 | Lawn reduction and perennial seeding

 of respondents were in favour

were neutral or did not respond

were unfavorable

of the gradual replacement of a significant portion of our grassy areas with perennial coverings (native grasses and flowers).

 

Question 2 | Development of wooded areas for burial of ashes under young trees

 of respondents were in favour

were neutral or did not respond

were unfavorable

the expansion of post-cremation services, including the development of the Remembrance Grove, a new section where urns can be interred under a native sapling and contribute to biodiversity.

 

Question 3 | Promotion of eco-responsibility among Cemetery visitors through self-management of their residual materials

 of respondents were in favour

were neutral or did not respond

were unfavorable

of our proposal to make visitors to the Cemetery responsible for their own waste management.

 

 

Next steps

 

Following these encouraging results, we will soon be implementing various projects that we will keep you informed of here. This summer we will begin replacing the lawn on the plain with native grasses and flowers. This is a long-term project with many steps that need to be completed over several seasons to achieve a successful outcome, so initially you can expect to see the grass growing freely in the targeted sections during the 2021 summer season.

If you have any questions about these orientations, please do not hesitate to contact us at 

serviceclientele@cimetierenddn.org.

Important information: strike mandate from the Operations Employees Union

The Notre-Dame des Neiges Cemetery Workers' Union, affiliated with the CSN, which represents the employees who process burials in the grounds and mausoleums as well as maintain our facilities, announced on March 29 that it had obtained a strike mandate for up to 10 days. We regret this decision and hope that it will not result in any prejudice to our bereaved families and and those of our deceased.

We have undertaken a negotiation process with the unions representing our operations and office employees in a context where the Cemetery's operations have resulted in a major operating deficit for several years.

The average hourly wage of our operations employees is currently about $30.57, plus benefits, including vacation, insurance and a defined benefit pension plan, which represent an additional cost of 49%.

As a nonprofit organization, we need to reduce our costs in order to significantly decrease our annual deficit and achieve a balanced budget over the next few years.  We continue to negotiate a new labour agreement and thank you for your understanding.

La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal affirms its commitment against domestic violence and violence against women

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release

 

La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal affirms its commitment
against domestic violence and violence against women

Montréal, April 2, 2021 - In the wake of the 7 femicides committed in Quebec in 7 weeks, la Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal and all its employees are concerned about the increase in domestic violence and violence against women. We strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and we support the mobilization movement against domestic violence.

We wish to contribute to the elimination of domestic violence, which most often occurs in private, behind closed doors, and to be true allies of those who are victims. This is why we offer resources, through our employee assistance program, to equip those of our employees and their families who may be experiencing such a situation, either directly or indirectly. This program puts the employee in contact with a confidential counsellor, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If more specialized resources are needed, the counsellor is able to refer to a competent partner in the field: shelters, psychologists specialized in early childhood, counsellors for violent partners, etc.

In addition, the Fabrique is taking part in the mobilization movement against domestic violence, Pas une plus! which is taking place today, April 2. We encourage our employees and our entire community to wear the white ribbon, symbol of this mobilization. We stand in solidarity and join our voice to the movement: #NotOneMore!

 

About La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal

La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal is a non-profit organization whose history goes hand in hand with that of the city of Montréal. More than 300 years after the city's beginnings and the construction of the first Notre-Dame church, the organization has retained its dynamism and employs more than 200 people. A true institution in Montréal, the Fabrique oversees the healthy development of the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, the largest in Canada, as well as Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, a place of pilgrimage, tourism and culture unlike any other.

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Marie-Philippe Mercier Lambert, Communications Coordinator
La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal
mplambert@fabriquenddm.org
438 925-3192