Burial or Cremation

The Annual Report for the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency states that in BC 82 per cent of families chose cremation in 2011. Nationally, earth burial is still the chosen means of disposition by the majority. Yet, many people know little about their options – such as, what type of service or gathering is available and where should it be held? What type of container and final resting place is preferred? And, what type of memorial and where should it be displayed?

It is often found that many people decide upon cremation having only received a small amount of information by word of mouth from friends. The members of the British Columbia Funeral Association believe that the general public needs more information in order to make an informed choice.

Burial

Once the preferred method of final disposition in BC, earth burial is still selected by some families. The ability to visit your loved one in their final resting place offers comfort to many. There are numerous possible choices to make regarding the cemetery selection, memorialization, the related services and the purchase of the necessary funeral products. Your funeral director can help you make the best choice.

Green Burial

There is growing interest in green burial which has been practiced since the dawn of human civilization.

Green Burial is seen as an opportunity for someone to minimize their impact on the local and global environment. It is an environmentally sensitive practice where the body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally and contribute to environmental renewal. A body is prepared for Green Burial without embalming and buried in a biodegradable shroud, simple container or casket made from natural fibre, wicker or sustainably harvested wood. The burial typically takes place in a protected green space within a cemetery.

There are no laws in British Columbia to prevent Green Burials. In most cases, the chemical process of embalming is not a legal requirement. Funeral services and cremation are governed in BC under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (and regulations) and the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act (and regulations), and green cemeteries are considered no different than any other place of interment. It’s important to note that operators still have to follow all the requirements outlined in the Act.

Cremation

Any decisions made about cremation should be educated decisions. Cremation is, in fact, only one process in a series of events that will take place. Cremation is where the body is prepared for final disposition. Over a period of 2 to 3 hours the body is transformed by intense heat (1600 – 2000 degrees Fahrenheit) to a state of small skeletal fragments and not fine ash as some people believe.

After the cremation process is complete, the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber and placed in a tray for cooling. They are then processed to their final reduced consistency. The processed cremated remains are generally placed in a temporary urn/container at the crematorium. Most cremated remains weigh between 4 – 8 pounds. The cremated remains are returned to the family or to the Executor/legal representative of the deceased.

Now that you understand the process of cremation, there are still many other decisions that will have to be made.

Service or No Service

One of the biggest misconceptions about cremation is that there can’t be any funeral, or because the final disposition is cremation, there will be no funeral.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Even with cremation many families choose the comfort of a traditional funeral with the cremation taking place afterwards. Another option is to arrange a memorial service that takes place after the cremation. Often the urn containing the cremated remains is present with memorabilia, photographs, awards or any personal effects that are meaningful or special.

Why have a service? As difficult as it can be to discuss death, grief and funerals, it is ultimately more difficult to avoid the topic. A ceremony is held in the memory of the deceased individual as a way of assisting the needs of the bereaved to acknowledge and express their feelings of loss. Some form of service for the deceased is the final celebration of their life, the summary of an individual’s beliefs, philosophy, accomplishments, and their relationship to others left behind. A service for the deceased is similar to other ceremonies in our lives. Like a graduation ceremony, a wedding, a baptism, a funeral or some form of service, it is a rite of passage by which we recognize an important event that distinguishes our lives.

The death of a loved one is never easy but a meaningful service will help.

From time-to-time, the terms “No Service by Request” or “Immediate Disposition” appear. This generally refers to the fact that a service will not be held for the deceased, however, it should not be confused with the many details that will have to be tended to prior to the cremation taking place. This is important to understand. By provincial law, cremation cannot take place until 48 hours after death and therefore requests for immediate disposition can be misleading.

Immediate disposition includes: the transfer of the deceased from the place of death; obtaining and securing documentation for the registration of death; and securing the cremation permit.

The deceased need not be presented in a casket for cremation but, in the absence of a casket, a suitable container* must be purchased that is sufficient to prevent a health hazard to crematorium personnel. This is provincial law.

A *suitable container as defined in the BC Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act is a container that encloses human remains and must be combustible and rigid. For the purpose of cremation, the container must not contain any of the following:

  • plastic
  • fiberglass
  • foam or styrofoam
  • rubber
  • polyvinyl chloride
  • zinc

Requirements for containers must meet the follow requirements:

a) it must have sufficient strength to contain and move human remains

b) it must be capable of being closed so that the public is not able to see the human remains

c) it must be constructed so that it does not leak or otherwise cause a hazard to any person’s health

d) it must be rigid.

The container or casket is then placed into the cremation chamber. Only one container or casket is placed in the cremation chamber at a time. If the deceased has a pacemaker, this must be removed by the funeral home staff. A person can be buried or cremated with simplicity; however, there is a certain amount of administrative duties and physical preparation of the deceased that may need to be performed prior to the cremation taking place.

Whether a more formal religious service is preferred or an intimate gathering of family and friends, your funeral director has the flexibility to meet your family’s needs.

Options for What Happens After Cremation

For individuals and families choosing cremation a decision regarding a final resting place must also be made. A cemetery with its many options for final disposition and memorialization provides permanency. A place for family to visit and remember their loved one, on important family occasions such as special holidays and anniversaries.

Urns: Usually cremated remains are placed in some type of permanent receptacle, or urn, before being committed to a final resting place. An urn is a container designed to hold cremated remains permanently. It can be constructed from a variety of materials including: hardwoods such as oak, cherry and mahogany; metals such as bronze, copper, brass and pewter; or stone such as granite, marble or cultured marble. An urn should be approximately 3,277 cubic centimetres (200 cubic inches) in capacity. Some families choose to provide their own urn. It is important that such urns be of an appropriate size.

Earth Burial of the Urn: Among the many options available, a very common choice is burial. If another member of the family has, or does not choose cremation, burial of the cremated remains offers families the flexibility to still be placed to rest near each other.

Columbarium: A columbarium is an above-ground structure, usually in a cemetery, specifically designed for the placement of cremated remains. The compartments within the columbaria is called a niche.

Scattering: Cremated remains also may be scattered in cemetery gardens specially created and dedicated for this purpose. The location where the cremated remains have been scattered in the garden may also provide opportunities to commemorate the deceased by name on a special memorial plaque or marker.  

There are no provincial regulations that prohibit the scattering of cremated remains on land, sea or by air. However, no person is allowed to scatter anything on any property without permission from the land owner. Before scattering cremated remains anywhere you should ensure that you have permission of the owner of the property. Once you have permission and have decided to scatter the cremated remains, it is highly advisable that serious consideration be given to the permanence of the site and the potential for marking it. Often these sites become a place of pilgrimage for immediate and future generations who want to remember and celebrate the life of their loved one.

The decision to scatter should be chosen carefully. Although the act of scattering over land or water may have idyllic appeal to some, it is an irreversible decision. Funeral and cemetery professionals see the emotional results this can cause years later for some survivors, and family and friends who have come to regret that there is no permanent memorial site. The emotional value of establishing a permanent site is worthy of consideration.

Prepayment

Many of the decisions required by a death event can be made in advance. By planning ahead, you have the opportunity to consider all of the options and make decisions based on what is right for you and your family. By pre-planning, families will be spared making difficult decisions at a stressful and emotional time. When you preplan, not only are the arrangements chosen by you, the costs are also decided by you. And, by paying for services in advance, you are guaranteed that the costs will never be more than they are today. Note: all prepaid funeral plans must be placed in a provincial government regulated trust account.

All prepaid funeral plans must be placed in a provincial government regulated trust account. 

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BRITISH COLUMBIA FUNERAL ASSOCIATION
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