In Canada, bodies go unclaimed as costs put funerals out of reach

    Mount Pleasant Funeral Center in Toronto
    The Hawk
    May18/ 2024

    Toronto: Some Canadian provinces have logged a jump in unclaimed dead bodies in recent years, with next of kin citing funeral costs as a growing reason for not collecting loved ones' remains. The phenomenon has prompted at least one province to build a new storage facility. Demand for memorial fundraisers has surged. The overall cost of a funeral in Canada at the top end has increased to about $8,800 from about $6,000 in 1998, according to industry trade group estimates. In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, the number of unclaimed dead bodies rose to 1,183 in 2023 from 242 in 2013, said Dirk Huyer, the province's chief coroner. In most of those cases, next of kin were identified but unable to claim the body for a variety of reasons, the most common being money. Finances went from being the reason for 20 per cent of the total unclaimed bodies in 2022 to 24 per cent in 2023. "It's distressing because it's a person who has passed and there's nobody – family, friends, or others – that are in a position to be able to provide instructions or plans for that person after their death," Huyer said. Officially, in Ontario, a body is deemed unclaimed after 24 hours. But the coroner's office staff may spend weeks trying to locate next of kin, he said. If the relatives confirm they are unable to claim a body, the local municipality works with a funeral home to provide a simple burial. In the meantime, the body is kept in a morgue or temperature-controlled storage facility. "There's always been families that are in need of additional assistance. (But) I've never seen the number of unclaimed remains that currently exist," said Allan Cole, owner of the Toronto-based funeral home MacKinnon and Bowes. In Quebec, the number of unclaimed bo ...

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