Halifax questions the safety of roadside memorials
HALIFAX -- An HRM councillor says roadside memorials are one of the most emotionally charged issues he’s had to deal with. While some motorists consider them to be a safety hazard, some people say taking them down would be insensitive.
Marlene Cooper has a shrine in her home, honouring her daughter, Kylie, who died in a motor-vehicle collision in June 2018.
In addition to the shrine, there is also a memorial on the side of a road where her 15-year-old daughter and an 87-year-old man died on Highway 2 in Wellington, N.S.
“Hammering a cross into the ground is not something I ever thought I'd do,” says Cooper.
Cooper also never thought she'd have to fight to keep the cross up after it was taken down by city staff following complaints. However, the city later allowed it to be placed on the side of the road, prompting a debate.
“I feel strongly about that spot – that was the last place she lived,” says Cooper. “As a grieving parent, she also died in that spot, so it makes it even more of a significant place for me to put a memorial.”
HRM council pondered a policy last year and had staff write a report focusing on the issue.
“This has been one of the most emotionally charged issues I’ve dealt with,” says HRM councillor, Steve Streatch. “The majority of the council, including myself, were not satisfied with what it said. It was a bit insensitive; it spoke very abruptly to a situation that was very raw at the time.”
Now the city is asking residents to fill out an online form with their thoughts on the matter.
“How we want to have these placed, where they should be,” says HRM spokesperson, Maggie-Jane Spray. “Some safety concerns around roadside memorials, for example, if they are blocking space in the public right away.”
“All options are on the table. Quite frankly though, the status quo is that there are no regulations,” says Streatch. So, in as much as somebody can put a memorial up, another citizen can make a complaint, and it will be taken down.”
Meanwhile, any potential policy may include a time limit on how long a roadside memorial would be allowed to stay up – a policy point Cooper would strongly disagree with.
“I would be very crushed, and I feel that would be the most insensitive thing that anyone could do to a grieving family,” says Cooper. “Like I said, until you're there, you don't know what you would do, and you don't know how you'd feel.