Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ashes to water

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Many Manitobans scatter the cremated remains of family members in a variety of places, including lakes, rivers and parks. It's not clear, however, if the practice is lawful and under what terms and conditions.

This ambiguity is a problem for followers of religions whose funeral rituals include dispersing human ashes in a river or lake.

NDP MLA Mohinder Saran (Maples) has asked the legislature to clarify the situation so Hindus, Sikhs and others who believe in water-based funerals can follow their customs without worrying about breaking the law.

The Cemeteries Act does not specifically prohibit the spreading of ashes outside a cemetery by individuals, but the Public Utilities Board, which is responsible for the legislation, has said there are problems with the practice.

Permission is needed to spread ashes on private land, the board says, but a larger concern is related to "the lack of record keeping pertaining to such disposal and reduced opportunities for future visitations."

Some authorities suggest federal water-protection legislation is an obstacle, but other provinces allow for the dispersal of ashes in water on Crown lands.

Human ashes do not pose an environmental risk and they are not a form of pollution. There is no good reason to oppose the practice, but the rules need to be clearer so families can conduct their rituals in peace.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2013 A12

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