Although it was originally established in 1873 as a rural Anglo-Protestant burial ground serving only its immediate environs, Beechwood Cemetery today is a refined and spacious multicultural and multi-faith memorial park where Canadians of all sorts are represented and immortalized together.
Lifelong locals, out-of-towners, and foreign-born citizens are memorialized in equal measure here. Names on the epitaphs are not only of Anglo-Saxon or Francophone heritage, but can be traced to far-off places like Poland, Germany, and Japan, with each having their own specific religious rites to be taken care of. A Chinese pagoda is situated in the centre of the cemetery overlooking a bubbling pond – the cemetery’s website indicates that services are offered in three different dialects of the Chinese language.
All strata of Canadians are welcome, and there is no clear delineation between religious faiths or a person’s particular place in the class hierarchy. An artist rests across from a businessman. A 102-year-old woman rests across from a 17-year-old girl.
Beechwood is home to the National Military Cemetery of Canada, with 12,000 burial plots allotted for active servicemen and women killed in action. General Maurice Baril noted that the military had been given “the high ground of the cemetery, in sight of our Parliament, next to veterans of previous wars and among the thousands of Canadians buried in Beechwood. This is exactly what we want.” Wreaths Across Canada, an organization that acts to honour Canada’s veterans and war dead, has recently put plans into motion to decorate every grave with a memorial wreath. The hope is that the sight of 3,000 wreaths will solidify in the minds of visitors the magnitude of the sacrifice our soldiers have made.