James Russell, a 76-year-old Toronto film producer, has ended his sit-in hunger strike in Niagara-on-the-lake, where he was fighting to restore the burial ground. Russell had stumbled upon the site back in 1985 while covering a water quality issue, and since then, he had been fighting to restore the cemetery to its former glory. He hired a company to do the ground penetrating radar that found 28 potential caskets and 19 potential headstones buried under the ground. However, the town council has no budget for the restoration project.
The group Friends of the Forgotten wants to create a park-like setting with a memorial to those people who have been buried there. Russell, on the other hand, feels that it has to return to its former glory as a cemetery. He wants to see the headstones up and dedicated to the people whose graves they marked. He is also not happy with the fundraising effort from the general public. Some people have supported him, while others have not. The battle lines have been drawn, and some people feel that he is doing this for a film project.
The restoration involves compliance from several bodies, including guidelines from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, and Tourism and the Funeral, Burials, and Cremation Services Act. The town has been speaking with the BAO, the bereavement authority of Ontario, who oversees any changes to cemeteries.