Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba regulations don't allow ashes to be scattered in water

Law infringes on rights: MLA

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Anoushka Shankar (centre) and Norah Jones (left), daughters of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, immerse his ashes in India's Ganges River in March.

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Anoushka Shankar (centre) and Norah Jones (left), daughters of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, immerse his ashes in India's Ganges River in March.

Should the scattering of cremated human remains be allowed in Manitoba?

That was the question posed Tuesday by NDP MLA Mohinder Saran (Maples) in a resolution aimed at providing clarity to provincial rules.

Saran said it's an issue of religious rights, particularly among Hindus whose religion mandates cremation.

"After cremation, the ashes are put in the water," Saran said.

"It's an important part of their religion, but in Manitoba it's not legal to put the ashes into the water for whatever reason, pollution or whatever."

Saran said it's impractical for a family to fly overseas to scatter the ashes of a person born in Canada in the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, or a river in the Punjab.

"So they will have to do it here, but they don't want to violate the law," he said."

Saran said cremation is controlled under the Cemeteries Act, but there is no mechanism to guide what can be done with the ashes.

He said many jurisdictions, including Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario, allow cremated remains to be scattered on waterways and Crown land.

His resolution asks for all-party support to acknowledge the significance of the religious custom of scattering cremated remains and to consider adopting a policy similar to Ontario's.

But it did not get put to a vote.

Instead, the Progressive Conservatives "talked it out" in the allotted time of one hour, effectively killing it.

Tory house leader Kelvin Goerzten said the Tories are not opposed to Saran's idea, but would like to see more information provided to MLAs on what other provinces allow and whether it would require any legislative or regulatory change.

"We want to make sure we get it right for the faith communities involved," Goertzen said.

A provincial spokesman said the government is looking at Saran's resolution to see if it can be modified for swifter approval.

Saran said he and the faith groups he represents would welcome that as they do not want to break any law when they scatter remains.

"It will be better if they don't feel guilty and so they can do what's part of their religion," he said.

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2013 A4

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