New crematorium planned in Abbotsford

The Fraser River Community Crematorium Society purchased the building that formerly housed MSA Moving and Storage for $2.8 million

The site of Abbotsford's new crematorium.

Abbotsford’s Indo-Canadian community is establishing a crematorium on Riverside Road.

The Fraser River Community Crematorium Society purchased the building that formerly housed MSA Moving and Storage at 2061 Riverside Rd. for $2.8 million, and will be giving the 16,000-square- foot building extensive renovations that will cost millions more.

The crematorium was a contentious issue in 2008, as a proposal to establish a 500-seat crematorium at Hazelwood Cemetery was voted down by council after much public debate.

Opponents did not feel it was appropriate for the city to donate two acres of cemetery land for the plan, citing a lack of cemetery space and the fact that the new crematorium would compete with private facilities.

Proponents said if the city donated land, they would raise $5 million to build the facilities. They pointed out that  Abbotsford’s Indo-Canadian population rose to almost 20 per cent in the 2006 census, and noted they have been tax-paying members of the community for a century.

Cremation is an important part of funeral ceremonies in the Sikh and Hindu religions, and large processions with hundreds of guests mean that local people from these faiths travel to other communities, often Surrey, for their services. Local private facilities and the crematorium in Mission cannot accommodate large crowds.

A crematorium at Hazelwood was part of the civic cemeteries master plan which was adopted by city council in 2007.

That same year, council gave the plan approval in principle, but voted it down in 2008 regardless.

Baljinder Bains, a member of the Fraser River Crematorium Society, was one of those addressing council in 2008. He said the new crematorium plan is the result of 10 years of work by organizers, and there were other groups tackling the issue even before that.

“It’s very important. The time when someone dies is a critical time.”

He said the group is happy with their new location. It offers 1.7 acres, and can provide adequate parking. The building will be large enough to house two assembly halls, allowing two simultaneous services of 550 people.

The new property has the correct zoning, meaning the crematorium committee will not have to seek council approval or go through public meetings.

The facilities will generally be used on weekends and long weekend statutory holidays.

The crematorium is a partnership of all of Abbotsford’s Sikh temples, the Abbotsford Hindu temple and the Mission Sikh temple, but Bains said the entire community will be invited to book it for funeral services.

The facility is expected to open as soon as summer 2012.

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