Descendants of people in Kouchibouguac, N.B., whose land was expropriated in 1969 to make way for a national park, are calling on the federal government to expand its cemetery so they can be buried there.
When 1,200 people had their land expropriated in 1969 to allow for the eastern New Brunswick park's creation, they were promised that they could be buried in the community’s small cemetery.
The St. Vincent de Paul cemetery is still maintained by the park, and 300 plots have been reserved for former Kouchibouguac residents. But there are only 37 plots left in the cemetery.
Vicky Hebert is among the roughly 100 people who have signed up to be buried in the 37 remaining spots.
She's asking park officials to expand the cemetery so there is enough room in the graveyard for everyone who wants to be buried there.
“It's frustrating because — I find people went through enough through the expropriation — without having to beg, because this is the only way we go back home, is by being buried there,” Hebert said.
Hebert said she wants to be buried in a plot among the trees at the cemetery next to her father, sister and brother.
“We do need more space and this is our main concern right now and Parks Canada really doesn't want to expand at this time,” she said.
Michel Bujold, a manager at Kouchibouguac National Park, said there's enough room at the cemetery for now.
He said he’s not sure all those who have signed up will in fact want to be buried there.
“Who knows who is going to be buried there? Some are minors and, who says that these minors will want to buried in the park down the road, if you work out in Toronto for all your life, you may not want to be buried here,” Bujold said.
The national park has said it would allow for the burial of the former park residents and their children.
But Hebert said she wants a stronger commitment from the national park.
The national park consists of 238 square kilometres along the Northumberland Strait. When the land was turned over to the federal government in 1969, 10 villages had their land expropriated.
The expropriation remains controversial for some. Jackie Vautour still lives on his property in the park even though his land was expropriated decades ago.
The park has created an advisory committee to help foster better relations between the park and its former residents.