04/19/2015 02:56 EDT | Updated 06/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Montreal-Area Muslims Get New Burial Ground

Some members of the Montreal Muslim community have reached an agreement with Magnus Poirier funeral homes for 3,000 plots at the Laval Cemetery.

Right now, there is one cemetery with separate areas for Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims. But that cemetery is getting full, and some people don't like the way it is managed.

"They dig the hole, they put the casket in, and they put back the dirt. The marker is a metal plate like you would find in a parking lot, not a cemetery," says Hadjira Belkacem.

Belkacem is originally from Algeria, but considers herself a Quebecer. She says she wants to be buried here, and that's why she founded Quebec's Muslim burial association.

Because of the lack of options, she says many Muslims were considering repatriating their loved ones' remains to their country of birth. That, despite the considerable expense and the strong preference many Muslims have for a rapid burial.  

Islam requires burial of the body as soon as possible — preferably within 24 hours — but that can be difficult here in Canada, where funeral home and cemetery staff aren't always available to offer those services on such short notice.

Now, Magnus Poirier funeral homes and Laval Cemetery are committing to provide those services.

They will open a new section of the cemetery up to all Muslims regardless of denomination.

"We have just to make sure that we are available to them seven days a week. There is no such day as a holiday, says Jacques Poirier, president and CEO of Magnus Poirier.

"We have seen that they are quite anxious to have something that can fulfil their requests and they way they should be served."

Helping Muslims feel more welcome

A Montreal imam says the new cemetery will help Muslims feel a sense of attachment to Quebec.

"To feel that we belong to a place we have to… find things that comfort our culture and our tradition," says Omar Koné.

"So obviously also a place where we can be buried is a primary thing to comfort that sense of being welcome."

Koné says for many people, knowing their bodies will not be sent back to their country of birth gives them feeling of permanence.

"A lot of people were choosing to go back to their country, and now of course the feeling [of belonging] is going to be stronger," he says

The new cemetery should be ready for the first burials in September 2015.