Duncan allows informal memorials to stay up longer

Duncan council is extending the length of time informal memorials can remain in the city before being removed, to 15 months from 13.

A sign will be posted at the site one month before the flowers, photos, signs, candles and other items are removed.

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The 13-month limit was imposed in September for mem-orials on municipal property. But as the first anniversary of a double homicide in the city approached, staff debated the appropriate timing of a public notice saying when the memorial would need to come down, and whether 13 months was long enough. Posting a notice around the anniversary of a death increased the likelihood of family and friends seeing it, but it felt inappropriate, staff wrote in a report that went to council on Monday.

“We realized that that would be a horrific time to receive anything like that,” Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said.

The city decided to temporarily waive the policy for the memorial in Charles Hoey Park to Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, who died after a targeted attack in the city on Christmas Eve 2019.

On Monday, council voted to allow memorials to remain for 15 months, with a sign posted one month before their removal. The intent is to give family and friends time to remove items themselves. If they choose not to, the city will remove the memorial and keep personal items for 30 days, said Peter de Verteuil, the city’s chief administrative officer.

Council will consider options for permanent memorials on municipal property, such as plaques, at the next council meeting.

Other municipalities in the region take a more hands-off approach. In Oak Bay, bylaws don’t allow anyone to put personal items on municipal property without permission, said bylaw officer Ed Boogaars.

He said he was not aware of temporary memorials created without permission, or any concerns about them in the city.

Oak Bay council would have to approve a temporary memorial for it to be allowed, and without permission, there could be consequences, Boogaars said. In Victoria, a memorial could be removed under the streets and traffic bylaw or parks bylaw, but “the city takes a compassionate approach to these sorts of things,” said city spokesman Bill Eisenhauer.

He said he was not aware of any complaints or concerns around memorials in the city. “They just sort of seem to be there and then they aren’t there.”

There are no policies governing informal memorials in Saanich, Esquimalt or Sooke.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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