Shia-Sunni cemetery to open in the Greater Toronto Area in the fall

Toronto Star – January 31, 2011

A Shia-Sunni Muslim cemetery — the first of its kind in the GTA — is in the works in Richmond Hill, Ontario and could be operational by fall. The Shia and Sunni communities in the GTA bought the 14-hectare site at the southwest corner of Bethesda Sideroad and Leslie St., from Beth Olam Cemetery Corp., for $6.8 million, says Abdulhuq Ingar, who represents the Sunnis’ Islamic Society of Toronto.

The cemetery will cost about another $2 million in development and overhead costs, says Sabi Ahsan, a Shia Muslim who helped coordinate the deal, which he described as a “positive accomplishment” for the Shia and Sunni communities. The land had “become surplus” for the Beth Olam group, he says, which has other cemeteries. The Shia and Sunni Muslims will operate independently as part of the Toronto Muslim Cemetery Corp. and will share resources to minimize costs and maintain the property.

Most Muslims have been buried in sections of non-denominational cemeteries in the GTA, according to certain key requirements such as being buried within 24 hours of their death and having their body washed and buried in a shroud with their face turned toward Mecca. But because of traditional cemeteries’ operating hours, meeting some of those requirements has been problematic.