When we passed our 1000th posting and fifth anniversary this summer suburban-poverty.com decided other voices would be timely, nice. Nicole N. Hanson, a west GTA planner with a specialty in cemetery and memorial space urbanism, is our first guest contributor.
Honestly, we never gave her area much thought. Like true Canadians we assumed land for houses, roads, schools, arenas, airports and malls could never run out. Same for cemeteries, mausoleums, crematories and the like.
Not the case. Equity issues are surfacing fast as access to proper, culturally sensitive places for accommodating the dead tightens up. Winging it in this area entails some social risk. We may not know exactly what we need decades from now in terms of say transportation resources but we do know death is a guaranteed thing. How to accommodate that need fairly in a hyper-diverse society where space and public resources are contested?
Well, that’s where Nicole comes in. She writes…
Is there such a thing as suburban poverty in Ontario? What does it look like in neighbourhoods, on streetscapes? These are general questions that I do reflect on from time to time. I’m afraid I have little problem attaching the shortage of cemetery space in Peel Region, specifically in the city of Mississauga, to the term suburban poverty.
This is something of an ongoing crisis now and while it remains a quiet crisis, it nonetheless is one, and it affects a Mississauga now home to a range of cultural values that need to be honoured and reflected in the fabric of the city. The shortage of cemetery space and lack of social funding for what can be overly expensive, emotionally fraught funeral services is linked to an essential need. The affordability of funeral service and cemetery products and services (graves, cremations, lots, crypts, flowers, music, monuments and markers) have begun to leave low- to middle-income families in precarious situations when trying to honour their beloved in a culturally appropriate, meaningful way. Land-strapped municipalities are left quite strained attempting to equitably and spatially plan for death.
Mississauga has become a densified, built-out, car-dependent city framed with an ever changing skyline (those Monroe towers are quite the sight!). Numerous wards are host to planning projects which support liveable streetscapes and active transportation networks. Metrolinx’s Hurontario Street light rail transit project, for example, will bring twenty kilometres of rapid transit to Missisauga (and hopefully Brampton). A similar maturity is seen in the Lakeview Master Plan and the Small Arms arts project within it. Dundas Connects is also a master plan for the brutal sprawlscape of the Dundas Street corrdior.
These are headline grabbing projects the City of Mississauga has underway to promote good planning under provincial legislation out to 2041. Despite all its post-suburban commerce, energy and general bustle poverty is still a problem here. There is a lack of fair equity in the transportation system, a lack of affordable housing and now a lack of green spaces viable for cemetery land use or other employment as memorial landscapes. Given this, memorialization in Mississauga has become one of the issues of precarity alongisde employment and housing.
How does ‘death equity’ affect sprawl communities facing the future? Sprawl zones such as Peel and York regions are currently exploring their options for memorialization. York initiated a Cemetery Needs Anaysis for the Official Plan Review 2041, conducted by LEES + Associates Architects and Land Use Planners. This is the first cemetery needs analysis undertaken by an upper-tier municipality in Ontario!
The City of Mississauga is currently exploring their inventory of cemetery and memorial lands against future needs via a feasibility study. Like most councils in ‘younger’ municpalities the focus tends to be on such things as siting new office towers and parking issues, particularly in emerging core areas. A million things compete for attention from Ontario’s municipal politicians besides the political economy of death.
The Board of Funeral Services, which regulates the funeral industry under the Bereavement Authority of Ontario averages the cost of a funeral service to be roughly five thousand dollars. More than two thousand dollars is needed for a typical casket and another one thousand five hundred dollars is needed for a vault. These figures do not include a cemetery plot, opening and closing fees for burial and for the marker or monument. Reflect on the number of hours required to earn these things in a minimum wage job.
Based on our value systems and religious affiliations, how will people be able to acquire funerary and cemetery products and services and memoryscapes? Even with the rise of so-called celebration of life services, it is still hard to make ends meet for middle to low income families when they lose someone. This blog has aggregated a lot of material regarding the rise of precariatized living in Canada. Unemployment created through advanced technology will also soon play against our ability to find resources for daily living, let alone for the dead.
How do we address precariousness in relation to death? Have we even begun to have conversations about how a precarious worker’s social class, race, religious values, and cultural traditions will be negotiated after death?
We can assign the increased role for cremation (Roman Catholics, for example, used to eschew cremation) not to cultural traditions but rather to individual income. Without resources to buy pre-need and at-need cemetery supplies and services what do we do with a loved one’s remains? The percentage of cremation for final disposition of bodily remains in the GTA is now sixty-five per cent with thirty-five percent of us receiving traditional burial. The sixty-five per cent choosing cremation usually find themselves interred in an existing lot / plot, cemetery niche or scattered on Crown or private property. If double or triple depth lot use is permitted within a cemetery based on its bylaws; many interments will take place in the existing inventory of lots and plots where there is limited land available.
We are looking at a bottom line, so to speak, in which in the next ten to fifteen years it will be close to pretty much impossible to buy a cemetery space in the GTA unless it is purchased privately.
-Nicole N. Hanson
Even death isn’t a complete equalizer. One woman pushes for equity in urban cemeteries around Toronto
See also: (471) Funeral poverty
image: Mark Strozler via Flickr/CC
So, there’s not a single independent book shop in Canada’s ninth largest municipality, Brampton? Wow.
For a balanced, critical reflection on this:
All roads lead to Brampton
image: Curly via Flickr/CC
The Thursday edition of sister newspapers The Brampton Guardian and The Mississauga News contain reportage of a serious case of neglect in publicly-funded housing. This is the kind of high-value, socially conscious reporting from the midst of daily life in the region (the unit is in Brampton) that these papers should be all over. Coasting along on real estate and car advertising is great but to survive in what is pretty much rapidly developing into a post-newspaper world local papers better get their hands on powerful content and keep on proving their relevance. Fighting for people is one way to do that.
The situation is awful to read about. Hopefully the coverage, two full pages in the print editions as well as digital attention, will make a difference. Peel Region is home to some of Canada’s best housed and most privileged citizens. Spend any time here at all and you come to know that isn’t the case for everyone.
Public transit and housing in the GTA are still configured for regular jobs. If you are a precarious worker of odd hours compelled to live where you can afford to live, as opposed to where the employment is, things get awkward.
Comprised of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon this publication’s home region, Peel, is famed for strained social services. That makes very welcome whatever media attention is available regarding social conditions here.
Stunning statistics drive need to help Peel’s homeless youth
mississauga.com – access three-part series via link
Time and money in the 905: it’s amazing the stranglehold car commuting puts on us. In Brampton, a family is trying to work around the weighty inevitability of it all. Coincidentally, the Toronto Star looked at their efforts right at the time of the Toronto International Auto Show, a major fest of cool cars and long payment plans.
Nobody is saying the car economy is exactly over. Just that change is coming and change is possible…
Realize, you may not always get a thank you note along the way…
My life as an, um, activist
See also: (179) Automobituary
image: wyliepoon via Flickr/CC
Diabetes rates have been mapped in detail for the first time for the province of Ontario and the results published. For the Greater Toronto Area the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) maps draw your eye to such places as Brampton and Rexdale, which is to say the sprawl. The ethnicity, incomes and behaviours of those with this illness in such communities is further established as well. Alarming.
image: sugar crystals taken byvia Wikimedia Commons
A good scare comes less via Halloween this week than a document taken wing from an Ottawa U think tank about the harsh financial realities of suburbanization. Try this on for Halifax from the report: the Regional Municipality could “save $700 million to 2031 by increasing the number of new dwellings sited in the urban core” instead of going for peripheral growth. HRM has barely a half million people making that a very significant investment, one best not taken lightly.
Really, the gig is up for mass suburbanization wherever it happens to be found in Canada, and however good it was while it lasted. The public cost/revenue picture for sprawl as we have known it since the 1970s is now completely unsustainable and yet tens of millions of people are expected to be housed in Canada over the coming decades. A real world financial proposition of capital cost for roads, sewerage, water, policing, fire stations, roads, cultural affairs and social services and transit will soon have a direct impact on life in Canada. This report challenges the centre of the economic and political regime we have been living under for decades now.
Here is the report: Suburban Sprawl: Identifying Hidden Costs, Hidden Innovations
44-page .pdf file
This op-ed piece from the Globe checks the realities of the “drive until you qualify” proposition for those costing out suburbia: The true costs of suburban sprawl
Architecture and urban affairs dude Christopher Hume attached the report to suburban-poverty.com’s home turf of Peel Region recently. His conclusions were stark, to say the least. Hume described Brampton and its big dollar mayor as heading towards a cliff, the same one Mississauga drove over a couple of years ago.
The trend for Peel Region is towards suburban poverty. Recent numbers collected by an ongoing effort to assess social conditions in Canada at University of Toronto provide the story. Decline in real incomes, growth in accommodation costs, rising car-related expenses like gas and insurance and a weakened picture for employment have moved many into poverty despite continued population growth and the vast sums invested in the artefacts of sprawl (roads, houses, commercial strips).
Peel seems to be developing a pinched class where once there was a middle class. Growth in population appears to be stressing social services and draining prosperity. “In 1980, Peel had just two low-income neighbourhoods. Three decades later, 45 per cent of neighbourhoods were considered low-income or very low-income, nearly the same proportion as in the city of Toronto,” says a recent item on the large, suburban area immediately west of Toronto, linked below.
This must be tough to swallow in a place that prided itself on growth, was a vast construction site for decades, where it seems like the 80s never ended if you were a property speculator, a builder or a municipal bureaucrat. The elected representatives in the communities making up Peel region tend toward conservatism and have not begun to strategize for the future. The two large city governments within Peel, Mississauga and Brampton, are at odds with each other regarding the formulas used to determine their share of regional spending. Mississauga’s mayor, facing a renewed legal approach in regard to conflict of interest with the development industry, is in her nineties now and will leave behind a dysfunctional and underachieving city council when she leaves office shortly. Brampton presents a very mixed picture as well.
Low crime rates in Peel are appreciated by its residents. The place is neither Bangladesh nor Detroit. A big, expensive, impressive plan for light rail transit for Highway 10 is on the books, too. But…
…a lack of political imagination has helped build the present in Peel Region, as surely as any demographic development. The faster a relationship is discovered with the former the sooner those demographic developments can be responded to in a meaningful way and bigger problems ameliorated. The political culture of easy income through rubber stamping development permits won’t be put to rest without pain we suspect. So, expect more findings like the ones in this article.
photo: Cryptanalysis computer in the 1940s taken by J Brew via Wikimedia Commons