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The Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery opens Sept. 11, but there's still a lot of cleanup to do, families say

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As bereaved families look forward to visiting their loved ones again later this month, there is still a lot of work to do to get appearances back in order at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery.

That’s according to family members who have been allowed access to the grounds since burials resumed. On July 17, groundskeepers returned to work after a months-long strike over wages and working conditions.

During the strike, public access was cut because of a pileup of debris left by the ice storm. Management said it was unsafe to enter. Burials were also postponed, leading to a backlog of hundreds of bodies, which were left in storage.

Jimmy Koliakoudakis' mother, Penelope, died in February. He finally got to bury her on Wednesday.

He told CTV he’d like to see burials become an essential service to avoid these types of delays in the future.

While he respects the labour dispute process, he said, “There should never be a situation where family members are put on the side for something that is so important in our society.”

“It should not be the families who suffer ever again,” he added. “There has to be another way.”

Groundskeepers have made significant headway since they resumed work. Roads have been cleared of fallen branches and trees, but families who visited say grass is still overgrown, and that there’s a lot of debris to pick up.

The gates are expected to reopen to the public on Sept. 11.

CTV News emailed and called cemetery management for comment on the gradual reopening, but did not hear back by deadline.

On its website, management says about 80 per cent of the cemetery grounds have been cleaned up.

“Work continues progressing well,” reads a statement posted to the cemetery website.

Regarding burials, it wrote, “We have started contacting families awaiting casket burial in a first-come, first-served basis for appointments.” 

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