The former Sault and area jail site on McNabb Street came under scrutiny tonight at city council over apparent bodies that were buried there in the 40s and 50s.
Apparently two prisoners were hung there and buried on the property and a Holding Provision was asked to be placed on the property.
The applicant is not seeking a change in land use or other development related approvals, but rather, the application of a Holding Provision to ensure that additional archaeological work is conducted upon the subject property prior to any on-site grading, excavation or building demolition.
There is evidence that at least two people were hanged at the jail (in 1948 and 1958) and their bodies cannot be accounted for. It is therefore speculated that these bodies were buried somewhere on the jail property.
There are a number Archaeological Policies contained within the Official Plan which address protecting and preserving archaeological resources, as well as identifying when an archeological study is required. Most Planning Act applications (rezoning, OPA, severance) would trigger the need for an archaeological review, but site alteration such as grading, excavation or demolition may not require Planning Act approvals that would ‘trigger’ the need for additional archaeological work.
Archaeological policy 8 provides direction where burial sites are encountered during an excavation or other action. In this case, the provisions of the Cemeteries Act apply. All work must immediately cease and the site must be secured. The Sault Ste. Marie Police, Provincial Registrar of Cemeteries and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture must be contacted immediately for further direction.
The overall focus of Provincial Policies and current Official Plan policies is to identify, protect and conserve archaeological resources and ensure they are not inadvertently damaged by development work.
The jail was constructed upon the subject property in 1915. There was a small addition in 1951 and another much larger addition in 1985.
Given the potential for burials on-site, Stage 1 and 2 Archaeological Assessments were conducted in 2001 and again in 2012. The 2012 assessment recommended additional investigation.
In 2016 Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. were hired by Infrastructure Ontario to conduct a Stage 2 Archaeological Assessment and Stage 3 Search for Burials. The full report is available for review in the Planning and Enterprise Services Office. The 2016 Assessment consisted of machine excavation within two investigation areas deemed most likely to contain burials, namely a portion of the former jail yard (currently the courtyard along the southern portion of the building) and a roughly 25m by 25m (82’x82’) triangular area in the ravine near the south lot line. No archaeological materials or burials were discovered during the course of this assessment, and it is the Archaeologists opinion that these areas can be considered clear of archaeological concern.
The Archeologist notes there is still potential for burials, particularly in the northwest corner of the property and beneath several metres of fill in the rear of the property. It is noted that the 1985 addition was constructed above where the jail yard was at the time of the hangings. It is possible the burials are underneath the 1985 addition, which was constructed as a slab on gravel. The Archaeologist recommends further investigation prior to any grading, excavating or building demolition on the subject property.
Infrastructure Ontario has declared the property surplus, and in advance of selling the parcel, wish to place a Holding Provision on the lot to ensure that further archaeological investigation is conducted prior to any activities, such as building demolition, grading and excavation, which might impact the burial sites.
In this regard, a change of use or renovations to the existing buildings would not require the need for additional archaeological work.
City councilor Joe Krmpotich wanted a motion passed to look into the details of if these bodies were there and where and who they were. This motion failed.
Councillor Susan Myers said that she talked to a local residents who vouched that they knew personally that there were no individual bodies left on the property.
The holding provision was passed.