The Sooke Program of the Arts Committee brought forward this photo to council of a memorial stone in Halifax as an idea for a memorial stone in Sooke. Following Monday’s meeting, the memorial dedication policy in Sooke is getting a well-anticipated update. (Photo from District of Sooke website)

Controversial Sooke memorial bench program getting an update

The memorial dedication policy in Sooke is getting a much-anticipated update.

Council directed staff at Monday’s regular council meeting to draw up a new policy, that would include some type of memorial for people to put plaques on commemorating loved ones.

The current program came under fire late last year when 25 people were told they were going to have to pay more for public memorials honouring their loved ones.

In January, council rescinded the policy and decided to send the issue to its new Sooke Program for the Arts committee and conduct a public survey.

The committee brought forward an idea at Monday’s meeting, which included using a large memorial stone instead of a wall, in keeping with the community’s wild by nature theme.

The group showed some designs of memorial stones in other communities, including one in Halifax with a design cut out of the middle, which stood out the most to councillors. The committee and staff will work together to choose a design specific for Sooke.

Once they decide, staff will develop some sort of a system in the updated policy where people can either choose to put their plaque on the stone initially, or else put a plaque on a bench or picnic table for a certain amount of time, and once that time is up, the plaques will be moved to the stone.

“Our current policy already includes a memorial wall, and we don’t have one,” said Tait. “I think this is a good start. I like the idea of having a big stone with the centre cut out, to look out at the water. The SPA has narrowed it down to a couple of locations that would work well for it to go.”

The commitee suggested the stone be placed at the entrance to Whiffin Spit, so people visiting don’t have to travel far to see it.

Tait says she believes staff will have something to present within the next three council meetings, but due to the short timeline and how busy things are, the new policy may not be put into place until after the elections.

“This is an issue that spans through the community, but we are running out of time. Hopefully we will move forward with it soon, but it’s not something we want to rush, we want to do things properly,” said Tait.“We realize family members are waiting, but we want to ensure consultation with them and the community, to hopefully come up with a plan that suits everyone.”

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