Months later the debate continues into Winter 2010 – Anyone who attends the Terry Fox Run or Residents of Port Coquitlam can express their remarks to the City Hall or the Media.

Planned cellphone tower threatens sanctity of the cemetery where Terry Fox is buried


PNG / Rogers Communications intends to erect a 50-metre cellphone tower that would loom over the grave of national hero Terry Fox, as well as the graves of many others in the Port Coquitlam Cemetery. There is no requirement for public consultation.

Photograph by: Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun

Canadian hero Terry Fox was buried in Port Coquitlam Cemetery in 1981 after succumbing to the cancer that inspired his attempt to run across Canada to raise money for research.

Fox’s epic journey ended unfinished, although the 5,373 kilometres he covered in 143 days is nearly equivalent to running a daily marathon.

His inspiring story of overcoming the amputation of his leg to attempt such a feat has raised nearly $500 million over the years and was a highlight of the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympics.

Yet five days earlier, Port Coquitlam’s council moved a step closer to allowing construction of a 50-metre (164-foot) cellphone tower that would loom over the very cemetery where he is buried -a sight that the city’s own website describes as being of both national and historic interest.

It also bears noting that the tower also would be only 120 metres from Coquitlam River elementary school and 200 metres from the closest house.

Fox’s burial site is listed as one of the city’s attractions and is one of 10 virtual tours on its website (

If the city agrees to lease the land for $25,000 a year for five years (with the potential to renew it in five-year increments for 20 years), Rogers Communications’ tower would stand more than 10 metres higher than the trees at the cemetery’s perimeter. The top of the tower would be loaded up with antennae and that’s what would be visible from the cemetery.

In every culture, burial grounds are considered sacred. They are set aside to honour the passage of lives and times. They are places of remembrance and quiet contemplation, in addition to being repositories of historical data and even nature conservancies.

And even many of those that hold the remains of the most famous and infamous, such as the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise in Paris or Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, still retain a sense of dignified calm despite a steady flow of visitors.

Yet history teaches that cemeteries are not immune to the pressures of progress. The New Westminster school board would not be having so much difficulty getting its new secondary school underway had the city’s council nearly 100 years earlier not chosen to allow construction on a cemetery site. It wouldn’t have been necessary for the new secondary school’s site to have been rededicated as a cemetery last year.

Of course, this is a tower that Port Coquitlam council is suggesting may just be temporary and may be long gone before graves need to be dug close to its base.

However, it also appears to be the first time that a Canadian telecommunications company has proposed building a tower at a cemetery, raising an important question about how we value the resting places of the dead.

But the public has no real chance to participate in that discussion.

The city will not hold public hearings. Surprisingly, a telecommunications tower fits within the current zoning and the Official Community Plan.

Rogers must consult the public to meet Industry Canada’s regulatory requirements – but Industry Canada doesn’t require a public meeting or even any indication of overwhelming support for the plan.

It requires only that Rogers provide it with a newspaper advertisement and copies of the information package that it has sent out to property owners within a radius that’s three times the height of the tower.

Industry Canada requires Rogers to respond in writing to all “reasonable and relevant” questions, comments and concerns within 60 days.

And since Rogers runs the process without any oversight, it gets to decide which of those comments are reasonable and relevant.

Industry Canada isn’t interested in either the questions or the answers.

But as even the city of Port Coquitlam is aware, this particular cemetery is of concern to a much broader public.

It is where a national hero is buried.

Do we really want the grave of one of the country’s most beloved citizens to be overshadowed by a cellphone tower?

And even if Terry Fox weren’t buried there, shouldn’t we at least question the appropriateness of erecting a tower alongside the graves of hundreds of other families’ children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers?

[email protected]

Vancouver Sun


Residents meet to discuss tower

City Hall issues a report of tower relocation, and present a contact for those opposed to contact carriers

As noted in the public notice, comments on this proposal should be directed, in writing, to:
Rogers Communications Inc., c/o Standard Land Company Inc. (Agents for Rogers)
Suite 610 – 688 W. Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1P1
Email: [email protected].

For questions on the City of Port Coquitlam’s land use policies and guidelines, contact:
Ron Myers, Manager of Parks, Planning and Design
City of Port Coquitlam
Email: [email protected]