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Can I Witness a Cremation in Canada?

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
December 2nd 2022 - 8 minute read
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Learn about witnessing a cremation in Canada and common practices in each Canadian province and territory.

When a loved one dies, family and friends sometimes want to say goodbye before their body is cremated. Witnessing a cremation is a good option for families that would prefer a more intimate gathering without increasing funeral fees drastically by holding a traditional visitation or viewing. Learn more about witnessing cremation and the protocols in each Canadian province and territory below.

What happens when witnessing a cremation?

Witnessing cremation packages allow close families and friends to view their loved one before they are cremated. Families may opt for this service for various reasons, including religious customs, cultural traditions, closure for family and friends, educational purposes, and more.

The process can vary between cremation providers and often accrues an additional charge. Witnessing packages allow families to watch as a casket is placed in the cremation chamber and observe the start of the cremation process. Some crematoriums have small, designated areas where family members can gather to witness the cremation and hold a small ceremony or celebration of life beforehand. In some cases, families can initiate the cremation process. However, the cremation process itself must be conducted by licensed professionals.

Witnessing a cremation is allowed in many areas but is up to the discretion of the funeral provider. However, what is offered may be limited to comply with provincial or regional laws and regulations. For example, there may be occupancy and physical distancing requirements due to COVID-19 or similar health regulations. Below are the general guidelines for witnessing a cremation in all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories.

Witnessing a cremation by province and territory in Canada

Below you'll find cremation witnessing information for each Canadian province and territory.

Ontario

Witnessing a cremation is permitted in Ontario. However, regulations do not allow services to be held in the crematorium. Funeral providers can offer families the opportunity to identify their loved one before cremation but cannot have visitation services on the premises. Nonetheless, the family is permitted to watch the cremation container go into the retort (cremation chamber) if they choose and if this service is included in the witnessing package from the cremation provider.

At Eirene, the witnessing package includes all of the elements of the standard cremation package. It allows family and friends to witness the cremation of their deceased loved one at one of our partner facilities. Each facility has a capacity limit for the witnessing, and a licensed funeral director is present to guide the process. With Eirene's package, families can identify their loved one before cremation and watch the cremation container as it is placed into the retort. They may also be given the opportunity to push the button that begins the cremation process.

Nova Scotia

Witnessing a cremation is allowed in Nova Scotia. Many funeral providers allow family members be present as their loved one’s body is placed in the cremation retort. Some facilities also have a private viewing room to accommodate family and friends so that they can watch the cremation in a peaceful and secluded setting.

In Nova Scotia, Eirene offers three cremation packages - simple, standard, and witnessing. The witnessing package offers all of the simple and standard package services while providing the opportunity for family and friends to witness the cremation of their loved one's body.

Eirene coordinates witnessing arrangements with its crematorium partners in the province, and a licensed funeral director is present during the witnessing to provide support and guidance. Witnessing and in-person identification occurs within 72 hours of death, at the crematorium, without embalming or restorative processes. Capacity limits vary between crematorium locations.

Saskatchewan

Offering cremation witnessing packages in Saskatchewan is permitted. In the province, families can view their loved one’s body prior to its placement in the cremation chamber. Some funeral providers may also allow the family to assist with specific preparation and identification procedures (e.g., dressing).

At Eirene, the witnessing package allows close family and friends to witness the cremation of their loved one at one of our partner facilities, accompanied by a licensed funeral director to provide guidance throughout the process. Families also receive all the services offered in the standard cremation package. Capacity limits vary between partner facilities.

There is also an option for in-person identification. This gives families a chance to say goodbye to their loved one before cremation. Families may also be permitted to assist with caring for their loved one's body (e.g., bathing, dressing, etc.).

Alberta

Witnessing a cremation is permitted in Alberta, and many funeral providers offer packages that include this service. This typically involves families being invited to a funeral home or crematorium to watch their loved one’s body (in a cremation container) being placed into the cremation chamber. Limitations to this service are at the discretion of the funeral provider. Still, most crematoriums allow immediate family members to at least view or identify their deceased loved one before cremation.

Manitoba

Manitoba funeral providers are permitted to offer witnessing services to their clients. This involves the family watching their loved one’s body being placed in the cremation chamber. Some facilities may offer in-person identification if witnessing is not possible. This allows immediate family and friends to say a final goodbye before the cremation.  

Quebec

Witnessing a cremation is allowed in Quebec. Funeral providers can permit family and close friends to view their deceased loved one briefly before cremation to say a final goodbye and witness the beginning of the cremation process. Accommodations, capacity limits, and rules are at the discretion of the crematorium.

New Brunswick

Witnessing a cremation is permitted in New Brunswick. Family and close friends may be given the opportunity to view the beginning of the cremation process or say their final goodbyes before cremation. The logistics of this service vary between funeral providers, but all occurs after 48 hours from the time of passing, as this is the required waiting time for cremations to happen in the province.

Prince Edward Island

Funeral providers in PEI are permitted to offer cremation witnessing packages to clients at their discretion. This can include giving family and close friends time to say goodbye prior to cremation or providing a space where they can witness their loved one’s casket being placed in the cremation chamber. However, this service is not common practice in the province. This is likely because cremation rates are slightly lower than in other areas.

British Columbia

Many funeral providers in British Columbia offer a witnessing service to clients. This involves family and friends watching the beginning of the cremation process. However, some facilities may only allow families to say goodbye briefly before cremation. Others may even provide the opportunity to hold a short and simple viewing or ceremony beforehand.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Witnessing a cremation is permitted in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). However, this too is not a common choice in the province, but cremation rates in NL are also on the lower end (according to CANA Statistic Report). Nonetheless, funeral providers may offer a family the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one before cremation or witness the beginning of the process.

Northwest Territories

Cremation services are not yet offered in Northwest Territories, so witnessing a cremation in the province is not possible. However, residents may outsource to other provinces to receive cremation and witnessing services.

Nunavut

Funeral providers offering cremation services in Nunavut are scarce. Therefore, witnessing a cremation is unlikely to be provided by most cremation facilities. However, families can also outsource to other provinces to receive these services.

Yukon

Cremation rates in the Yukon are also on the lower end (CANA Statistic Report), but witnessing a cremation is permitted in the province. However, the service is not often selected, so clients may need to discuss options with a funeral provider prior to cremation or receive services from funeral providers in other provinces.

Questions about witnessing a cremation?

If you choose Eirene to provide cremation services for a loved one, our team can make arrangements for the ability to witness a cremation where possible at the locations we serve. Email us at support@eirene.ca or call us for further information. Witnessing packages are listed on our pricing page.

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