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Ashes to Ashes - What can we do with those Ashes?

2 minute read

The cremation rate in Canada is increasing steadily and rapidly as more and more people choose cremation as a means of final disposition. In the past fifty years the national average rate of cremation in Canada has gone from approximately 5% to over 70%. The notion of burying our loved ones in caskets in a cemetery is becoming, frankly, old! Families and loved ones are choosing cremation. Why? There are many reasons that seem to be at the root of this trend – cost and convenience, perhaps. One of the key reasons could be the ability to plan for a celebration of life tailored to the loved one at a place and on a date that allows for those spread around the province or further to join the celebration and take part in the planning.

Once cremation is decided upon, the executor has to decide what to do with those ashes. Sometimes the executor has been told in advance what the deceased wants done with the cremated remains (“cremains”) – from burying them in a cemetery, to spreading them in the lake at the deceased’s family cottage. What can the executor do with the cremains? Can the ashes be spread at the deceased’s favourite spot near the family cottage in the Muskokas?

Surprisingly, there are perhaps less restrictions than one might expect as to how the ashes can be dealt with. In Ontario, cremains can be scattered on private property with the consent of the land owner. Ashes can also be scattered on Crown land, including land covered by water, if it is unoccupied, such as provincial parks, conservation reserves or the great lakes, and if there are no signs or postings prohibiting scattering. It can also be possible to scatter cremains on municipally owned lands. Certainly it would be wise to check in advance no matter what the plan.

It is also possible to transport cremains out of Ontario, but if by air there are restrictions that will vary by airline.

I met someone the other day who was wearing a lovely necklace, and the necklace was – not obviously - a vessel for some of her mother’s ashes. Not my personal taste, but she loved having her mother close to her. She also told me that the other option she considered was a teddy bear with a pouch where she could install cremains in a small plastic bag.

In my experience more and more people are planning in advance for their end of life celebrations and resting places and there are fewer “conventional” celebrations of life for those we have lost. If you search the web, you will find all sorts of unusual and creative ways of disposing of cremains and dealing with ashes. What will you tell your executor you want for you?

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Anne M. Reinhart

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