Crematorium ordered to stop commercial service April 15

The Cowichan Valley Crematorium has been ordered to stop providing commercial services within the next month.

Consumer Protection BC has upheld its decision from September 2012 to suspend the licence of the crematorium effective April 15, which will give operators the opportunity to finish any ongoing business.

It is the latest chapter in the long-running saga surrounding the crematorium, which is located on land on Cowichan Lake Road west of Duncan that has been owned by the Paldi Khalsa Diwan Society since the 1960s.

In 2010, the society applied for a building permit to replace the old wood-burning ceremonial operation with a modern gasfired crematorium. The permit was granted, but unbeknownst to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, operators began using the facility for commercial purposes, contravening the land’s P-1 (Parks and Industrial) zoning.

When Consumer Protection BC first issued the licence in 2011, operators were told to provide documents from the Cowichan Valley Regional District indicating that a commercial crematorium was proper use of the site – a standard requirement of any crematorium licence.

"They didn’t give us a lot of detail," Tayt Winnitoy, vice president of operations for Consumer Protection BC said. "It’s a pretty straightforward requirement."

When operators failed to provide the documents by September 2012, Consumer Protection BC suspended the commercial licence. The company chose to appeal, and the suspension was stayed. In the meantime, the BC Supreme Court ruled last fall that the presence of a commercial crematorium on the land went against CVRD zoning rules.

"Once the court made its ruling, we were able to start our reconsideration process," Winnitoy said. "As we have still not been supplied with the necessary documentation, the business must cease providing cremation services."

The crematorium operators could still have the suspension lifted, Winnitoy explained.

"In effect it is until such time as they come into compliance, or when the licence expires," he said, noting that he believes the licence expires at the end of June.

If the crematorium doesn’t cease commercial operations by April 15, Consumer Protection BC can proceed with fines and/or court action.

The latest ruling does not affect ceremonial use of the crematorium. A separate licence belongs to the Vancover Island Sikh Cultural Society, and allows for cremation as part of religious ceremonies, which the CVRD has supported.

According to CVRD chairperson Rob Hutchins, the Cowichan Valley Crematorium has filed a notice of appeal on the Supreme Court decision from last fall. The hearing at the BC Court of Appeal is scheduled for June 9 in Vancouver.

Representatives of the crematorium declined to comment.