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Woman 'brings her broom' to Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery amid unkempt conditions

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Montreal families are continuing to complain about conditions at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, saying the conditions there make visiting loved ones a challenge.

Kevin Mann said the site of his family's grave is in bad shape.

"I feel terrible. I feel like they're buried in an unmarked grave," he told CTV News.

Paying a visit is difficult because the grass is so high, he said.

"My parents are here, my grandparents are here. I have a brother buried here, resting here. And I'm a little bit annoyed at the upkeep of the grounds," he said.

Mann said his calls to the cemetery management go unanswered.

He and other visitors complain of overgrown grass and weeds, overflowing garbage, broken tombstones and holes dug up by groundhogs.

Mary Iacampo has resorted to cleaning a mausoleum herself.

"The floors are dirty -- so much dirt it's granulated under [your] feet -- spiderwebs, water on the floor, garbage that isn't picked up for three to four weeks or until I complain..." she listed.

"I cry, every week. So I do what I can. I brought my broom, I brought my rake, and I'm going to clean some more for me," she said. "For my parents."

Grounds workers at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, which is Canada's largest cemetery, have been without a contract for three and a half years.

The vice president of their union says there are extreme staffing shortages as well.

"We had 20 to 25 people doing that grass that would just maintain it, but now we're down to five to six people on grass, and there's only one person on the weed wacker," said Eric Dumoulin. "It's not normal."

He said staff are burning out and leaving -- and he has the same questions the visitors do:

"Why can't they hire more people?"

The Fabrique, the non-profit organization that oversees the cemetery, didn't respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

In a press release from 2021, it said the cemetery had a $100 million deficit.

"Several difficult decisions will need to be made to put an end to the cemetery's annual operating deficits, and we hope to negotiate and conclude new agreements with the unions representing our operations and office employees in the coming months," the release states.

But 13 months later, visitors are still left wondering how much longer this will take.

"How can they think it's right to let a place like this get to this condition?" questioned Iacampo.

The union and the employer are expected to be back at the negotiating table in September.

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