The gravesites of many of Canada’s former prime ministers are damaged or decaying, yet the federal agency responsible for their upkeep doesn’t seem to be in any rush to fix the problems.
Recently completed inspection reports obtained by the National Post show the burial sites face a litany of issues, including crumbling or rusting stonework, fading or illegible inscriptions, discoloured portraits and missing signage.
Arthur Milnes, a political speechwriter and prime minister historian in Kingston, Ont., says it’s unfathomable why the government isn’t putting more effort into restoration, especially as the nation celebrates 150 years of Confederation.
“These are our prime ministers. They gave their lives to build what is today one of the most successful nations on Earth,” he said.
“If we can’t honour their final resting places long after their service, then why are we in the business of country?”
Parks Canada spokeswoman Natalie Fay said in a statement that the problems identified are “commonly encountered in the conservation of monuments.” Once the reports are finished this spring, “their final recommendations will be reviewed to determine how and when the challenges … will be addressed.”
In 1999, the federal government started a national program designed to “ensure the conservation and promotion” of our prime ministers’ grave sites. Under the program, Parks Canada was supposed to work with families and cemeteries to prepare “comprehensive” conservation plans, and conservation specialists were to inspect each site every five years.
In the most recent round of inspections, carried out in 2016 and early 2017, sites were found to be in “good or fair condition,” just as they were in 2011, Fay said.
But the inspection reports, obtained by the National Post under access-to-information legislation, showed a range of cosmetic and structural problems.