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This article was published 9/7/2015 (2018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you've felt undue pressure to buy a pre-arranged funeral plan, the provincial government wants to hear from you.
Manitoba Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection is asking for Manitobans to provide input on its draft regulation for the Prearranged Funeral Services Act.
Kevin Sweryd, owner of Bardal Funeral Home and Crematorium on Sherbrook Street, said he applauds the actions being taken by the provincial government.
"I think it will lead to best practices for Manitoba," Sweryd said on Wednesday. "I am a big supporter of giving families protection.
"It's all about being more open and honest to the consumer. Punish the offenders and make it easy for the guys who follow the rules."
Sweryd said he'd like to see the government go even further and include the ability to rebate the costs people pay in advance to cemeteries -- some owned by funeral homes -- for cemetery plots, headstones, urns and other items at the cemetery.
"They have commissioned salespeople allowed to operate outside of the Prearranged Funeral Services Act," he said. "Will you get objective information from someone who gets more if they sell $10,000 instead of $2,000?"
The draft regulations include giving the Funeral Board of Manitoba inspection and disciplinary powers, increasing fines from $200 to $10,000 plus up to one year in jail for an individual, and from $500 to $50,000 for a corporation, and moving the board from being under the responsibility of the Public Utilities Board.
Denise Koss, the board's chairwoman, said the board has "a strong consumer-protection mandate."
"But we also license the funeral directors. We don't advocate on behalf of the funeral industry. That's an important distinction."
Koss, who is also director of the province's Vital Statistics Department, said one of the matters that sparked the update in the pre-arranged funeral services act was what happened to people who paid for pre-arranged funerals with the Russell Funeral Home between 2003 and 2009.
Harvey Giesbrecht pleaded guilty earlier this year to 21 counts of fraud committed when he owned the funeral home. The matter was discovered when Richard Wojcik, of Wojcik's Funeral Home, noticed there were problems with the money set aside for pre-arranged funerals when he was in the process of buying the Russell Funeral Home.
Koss said one of the proposed changes is instead of having funds paid for pre-arranged funerals stay with a funeral home, have them immediately transferred to be kept with a trust or insurance company.
"It's set up to try and strengthen the protection for consumers," she said.
The complete draft regulation can be seen at wfp.to/RAK.
Submissions will be accepted until Aug. 1, and Koss said they are hoping the act can be put before the legislature to be approved this fall.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.