Muslim cemeteries opening in Canada

The Globe and Mail – June 21, 2012

After years of planning and work, developers in two cities are set to meet a burgeoning need by opening two cemeteries – the Toronto Muslim Cemetery and the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery. While there are currently five Muslim cemeteries in Ontario, as well as a few others scattered across the country, the new additions are the first to cater to Muslims in Canada’s largest city and its capital. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Muslims in Canada is expected to almost triple over the next 20 years, from about 940,000 in 2010 to nearly 2.7-million in 2030.

Work on the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery began in the early 1990s when Abu Nazir, now the president of the group behind the project, started talking with the community about the need. Until that point, most of the Muslim community had been focused on establishing itself by building mosques and schools, he said.

The Toronto Muslim Cemetery, located just north of the city in Richmond Hill, is bigger than its Ottawa counterpart – a $10-million partnership between the area’s Sunni and Shia communities with a capacity of about 40,000 graves. Close to 5,000 plots have been pre-sold, according to Sabi Ahsan, a local developer and chairman of the cemetery’s board.

Largest Muslim Cemetery in Ontario to Open

The largest Muslim cemetery in Ontario, and one of the biggest in Canada, is about to open near Manotick. It will accommodate about 10,000 graves, says Abu Nazir, president of the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery. There is a small Shia cemetery near Toronto, of less than half a hectare, as well as a larger cemetery serving the general Muslim population in Montreal. The Manotick site will serve all Muslims. Trees are being cleared now for roads, culverts, and some landscaping. Burials could begin as early as this autumn.

Nazir’s group has been working towards this for more than 15 years, looking at about 160 sites. In 2004, it paid $185,000 for a 12-hectare plot at 1668 Manotick Station Road. The group has spent the last five years getting approvals from the city, the province and the medical officer of health. Nazir estimates there are about 100 to 200 deaths a year among the city’s community of about 65,000 Muslims. He believes this cemetery should last at least 60 to 70 years. The group will likely prepare the land in five stages of 2,000 plots each.