Country’s first crematorium moves a step closer

Legislation facilitating the introduction of cremations in Antigua and Barbuda is set to go before Parliament soon (Photo courtesy
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By Gemma Handy

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Talks between government and a trio of Canadian investors interested in creating the country’s first crematorium have moved a step forward.

Cabinet announced yesterday it was studying a detailed blueprint from the three Toronto-based women.

 The entrepreneurs, who have Antiguan heritage, say they are keen to give back to their parents’ birthplace by helping ease pressure on the nation’s full-to-capacity public cemeteries.

They have a collective two decades’ experience in the industry and previously told Observer they were willing to invest whatever capital was needed to make the plans a reality.

Confusion over their intentions arose in recent days, first when Cabinet spokesman Lionel Hurst told last week’s press briefing that the women did not wish to put up their own funds – and then again on Tuesday when reporters were told by Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph that the trio had not submitted an official proposal.

Both claims were rebuffed by the women.

Yesterday morning, Hurst told media the women were ready to plough US$3.5 million into the venture.

They wish “to create a crematorium, a garden, a nice place when the urns can be kept and to also build something equivalent to a chapel”, he said.

“They are doing it with their own resources,” he reiterated.

Hurst also sought to explain last week’s conflicting messages.

“At the time of our announcement from the Cabinet meeting we did not have the benefit of all of that information. We had asked for a submission of that sort to be sent onto the Cabinet.

“That has happened and is now under consideration. By next week we should have answers for the investors.

“If they wish to go forward, I think they will get the support of the government of Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.

Shelley Challenger, Minnelle Williams and Shari Yearwood told Observer they were committed to creating a first-class crematorium in Antigua to give local families greater options when bidding final farewells.

They also said there would first be an educational component to sensitise the public to the notion of cremation which, for some, may initially be distasteful.

Hurst said such facilities had become an “absolute necessity” in island countries with limited land space.

The nation’s expanding population means there are now up to 10 deaths a week – and a dire lack of space in which to bury people.

The two principal cemeteries of St John’s and Bolans have been full to capacity for some time.

“We cannot utilise all the land space available in Antigua and Barbuda for the disposal of human remains,” Hurst added. “So we have to find suitable solutions – and that solution lies in crematoriums.”

Before plans are finalised, there will first need to be a legal amendment facilitating the use of cremation in the country. That legislation is set to go before Parliament shortly.

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