Arranging a Funeral or Cremation Service in British Columbia

This guide aims to answer some key questions about making funeral or cremation arrangements in British Columbia. We provide an overview of some legal aspects of making funeral plans specific to British Columbia funeral laws and what funeral or cremation costs to expect.

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Cremation Planning in British Columbia 2024

If it is your first time arranging a funeral, you can be overwhelmed by where to start and all the things that need consideration.  Add to this the fact that the ‘death industry’ is big business, and many funeral professionals are also slick sales professionals; this can all lead to what is known as a “distressed purchase.”

There are around 140 Funeral Homes in British Columbia. This can make it a difficult task to choose which funeral home best meets your needs.

To try and guide you through this difficult process, we have outlined a few important aspects of arranging a funeral in British Columbia that may help you.

What Regulations Govern Disposition arrangements in British Columbia?

Cremation authorization British Columbia Canada

In British Columbia, the legal requirements for a cremation disposition include the following:

A funeral director should receive written authorization to perform disposition services.  Telephone consent can initiate a funeral home to begin their professional service, but formal written consent must be given before a cremation or burial can be conducted.

1. Authorization: The cremation must be authorized by the deceased’s next of kin or the person designated as responsible for making funeral arrangements. This authorization is typically given through a signed document.

2. Death Certificate: A death certificate is required before a cremation can take place. The funeral director will register the death when he or she has both the Medical Certification of Death and the necessary information about the deceased. This document is issued by the Vital Statistics Agency and confirms the cause, date, and location of death. 

3. Medical Certificate of Death: A medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, or coroner completes and signs the Medical Certification of Death within 48 hours after the death and forwards it to the funeral director.

4. Cremation Permit: A cremation permit must be obtained from the local government authority, usually the local health department or the coroner’s office. This permit confirms that all legal requirements have been met and authorizes the cremation to proceed.

5. Identification: The deceased must be properly identified before the cremation process. This can be done through visual identification or by using unique identifiers such as a wristband or a photograph.

6. Cremation Container: The body must be placed in a suitable container for the cremation process. This can be a casket or an approved cremation container made of combustible materials.

7. Cremation Process: The actual cremation process must be conducted in a licensed cremation facility. The facility must adhere to specific regulations regarding the handling, storage, and disposal of human remains.

It is important to note that these requirements can vary slightly depending on your specific circumstances and the funeral service provider involved.

What Can I Expect in Funeral Costs in British Columbia?

Funeral costs in British Columbia Canada

A funeral can be a significant expense, depending on what kind of service you opt for.  You can spend anything between $1,000 to $12,000.  The funeral director will charge a ‘professional service fee’ that usually covers his/her basic services to transport the deceased, obtain the medical certificate of death, register the death, and complete all necessary government forms.

Depending on whether you opt for a burial or cremation, you may have additional costs for such things as embalming, a casket, and/or an urn and cemetery burial plot. Other indirect costs can be things like the services of an officiant, clergy and organist, obituary notices, and flowers. 

A funeral home MUST provide you with a ‘General Price List’ that specifically itemizes their charges. A funeral home cannot refuse to accept funeral merchandise (such as a casket) that you have purchased from another source.

Being a “distressed purchase,” many people just turn to the first funeral home they know of or one that family and friends recommend.  In many cases, this can be a sound decision, but it IS important to shop around to ensure you are getting equitable ‘value for money’. 

It is common to find that the different funeral homes in an area of BC will all charge differing rates for the same service – therefore, you should compare funeral costs.  Corporate-owned funeral businesses such as Dignity and Arbor Memorial typically charge more.

Canadian Funerals Online provides a FREE directory of all 120+ funeral homes in British Columbia, and we work with DFS Memorials of Canada, which is a national network of family-owned funeral homes that guarantee a low-cost funeral serving their local communities. 

The DFS Memorials Provider for Vancouver and the surrounding area offers a simple, direct cremation for $845.

Arranging a Cremation Service in British Columbia

Cremation Memorial British Columbia

Cremation is popular across Canada compared to the whole of North America, and British Columbia rates as the province with the highest cremation rate in Canada at around 80%.

At least 48 hours must elapse after the time of death before cremation in BC can be carried out unless specifically ordered by a medical health officer under the Public Health Act.

To find out more, visit our Cremation Services Explained article.

Does the Deceased Have to be Embalmed in British Columbia?

No, embalming is not required by BC law.  It is often suggested by funeral directors if there is a delay between the time of death and the disposition, and/or a viewing is requested.

How Do I Obtain a Death Certificate in British Columbia?

Free cremation with Body Donation in British Columbia

Once you have appointed a funeral director, they will ordinarily coordinate the necessary documentation, such as the medical certificate of death and the death certificate. 

The attending medical physician is responsible for completing the medical certificate of death within 48 hours, this needs to be submitted to apply for a ‘Death Certificate’. 

In British Columbia, the death certificate required for cremation is issued by the Vital Statistics Agency. This agency is responsible for registering all births, deaths, marriages, and adoptions in the province. The death certificate provides official documentation of the cause, date, and location of death.

It is a crucial document that is required for various legal and administrative purposes, including the authorization of a cremation.

The BC Vital Statistics Agency issues death certificates and currently charges $27.00 per certificate in BC.  Additional copies may be required if you need to send them to various institutions and organizations.

What are my options for preplanning a funeral in British Columbia?

Affordable Cremation Plan In British Columbia

To ensure wishes are met and relieve the family of the emotional and financial burden of a funeral, you can preplan a funeral in BC. 

Pre-financing a funeral can be done in installments or in a lump sum payment.  Funeral homes that offer a preplanning service must have licensed, pre-need qualified staff, and all funds are usually held in trust.

Although preplanning can be a great way to have peace of mind about end-of-life decisions, it is vital that your funeral plan is discussed with your family and safely lodged with your personal papers. 

Too often, families have already coordinated the funeral of a deceased parent to later find out that they had a funeral plan and fund held in trust.

What help is available with funeral expenses in British Columbia?

The Ministry of Housing and Social Development offers a funeral supplement to contribute towards the cost of a person who dies in BC if the family has no immediate funds to meet these costs.  This supplement is available under the Employment and Assistance Regulation. 

The Crime Assistance Program may award up to $5,000 towards the funeral expenses of a victim of a crime.  Canadian Forces members and veterans are entitled to benefits related to funeral expenses.  For serving members, this can be anything up to $12,700.

What to do if a loved one dies outside of British Columbia?

It can be especially distressing if your loved one dies away from home but be assured there are funeral professionals who specialize in transporting human remains and can bring your loved one home to you.  Transporting a human body can be costly, and this will depend upon the funeral home’s professional service charge for managing the shipping, plus the shipping costs. 

It can typically amount to around $3,500 – $5,000.  This tends to be why many people consider cremation at the place of death and then ship the cremated remains back to BC.

Air Canada does offer a specialized funeral shipping service ‘AC Compassion’.  For more information, visit our page on Air Transportation of Human Remains or call (855) 617-0232 to speak with a shipping professional in Vancouver now.

Can you donate a body to science in British Columbia?

Yes, the University of British Columbia does have a Body Donation Program (for those wishing to make an anatomical gift.  Donating your body to science can be a wonderful way to leave a lasting legacy to future generations.

A consent form needs to be lodged with the University, this can be done prior to death or at the time of death.  They will then collect the deceased from the place of death, arrange the anatomical donation, cremation of the remains, and a basic urn. 

Next of kin will be contacted to collect the remains once the body donation process has been completed.  This can be anything from a few weeks up to three years.  All costs are covered by the University, but additional costs for transportation to the University may be incurred for those outside of the Greater Vancouver area.

There is no upper age limit for body donations, and some medical conditions may prevent the acceptance of a body for the program.

For more information, contact the UBC Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences – call (604) 822-2578 or email to anatomy@interchg.ubc.ca 

Where to go if you have a complaint about a funeral home in British Columbia

Hopefully, it won’t happen, but if for any reason you should have a complaint about services from a funeral director, you should try and resolve it directly with the funeral firm in the first instance.  If you still have a grievance, you could take it up with the Funeral Service Association of British Columbia – the association upholds the ethics and standards of funeral professionals in BC.
Suite 211, 2187 Oak Bay Ave, Victoria, BC. V8R 1G1

Consumer Protection BC is also a not-for-profit organization that protects consumers in BC.  They can be mailed at: PO Box 9244 Victoria BC V8W 9J2.

Please Contact Us at Canadian Funerals Online if we can provide any further assistance with planning a funeral cremation in British Columbia.

DFS Memorials – Save on Cremation Costs in British Columbia