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A recent bylaw in Vernon, B.C. restricts certain items from being left at grave sites from March 15th to Oct. 15th. Only fresh-cut floral arrangements placed in approved tribute holders are allowed on plots during this time. One resident, Joe Langlois, believes the bylaw violates his human and religious rights as it restricts religious articles like rosaries, pictures, and religious practices. Langlois, along with a small group of others, disagrees with the bylaw’s limitations on how individuals can remember and honor their loved ones.

Vernon’s mayor, Victor Cumming, explained that the bylaw was created to ensure the safety of the cemetery’s groundskeepers while they work with equipment, particularly when members of the public are present. He also stated that the bylaw helps maintain a respectful environment within the cemetery. Mayor Cumming believes that the bylaw has improved the quality of the cemetery for all visitors and has made it a dignified and respected place for everyone to honor their deceased loved ones.

Langlois created a petition last March in an effort to persuade the city to reverse their decision regarding the bylaw. However, due to his dissatisfaction with the city’s response, he has now taken the additional step of filing a human rights complaint against the city. Langlois has submitted the complaint online through the province of B.C., and is also working with a law firm that is interested in pursuing the case. The BC Human Rights Tribunal has received the complaint but due to a high volume of complaints, it may take nine to 12 months for an update on recently filed cases.

The City of Vernon has acknowledged the potential complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal regarding the Cemetery Management Bylaw #5767, but it has not received any official complaints as of now. The city stated that as the matter may be under review by the Human Rights Tribunal, it would be inappropriate for them to comment at this time. If the tribunal decides to hold a hearing into Langlois’ complaint, it may take approximately six months for a decision to be made about whether the complaint is justified or dismissed. In the meantime, any items placed on grave plots that do not meet the bylaw criteria will be removed respectfully by the city, and residents can retrieve them from the cemetery.

Overall, the dispute over the cemetery bylaw in Vernon highlights a clash between individual rights and public safety concerns. While the city argues that the bylaw is necessary to protect groundskeepers and maintain a respectful environment within the cemetery, residents like Langlois believe that it infringes on their right to honor their loved ones in a way that is meaningful to them. The filing of a human rights complaint demonstrates the seriousness of the issue and the determination of those who oppose the bylaw to seek a resolution that respects both individual beliefs and community regulations. Moving forward, the decision of the BC Human Rights Tribunal on Langlois’ complaint will likely have implications for how similar disputes between personal rights and public regulations are handled in the future.

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