What to do with cremated remains?

Cremated remains, ‘cremains’, and ash scattering

After a cremation is performed, the cremated remains, often referred to as cremains, are not actually “ashes” but rather dried bone fragments that have been pulverized to dust. They have a consistency not dissimilar to sand and often contain small fragments of bone.

Ashes, in this way, pose no health risk and may therefore be scattered or kept in a variety of ways, from more extravagant keepsakes like memorial diamonds to simply storing ashes in a niche or scattering them in a river or the sea. If you are intending to scatter your loved-ones ashes, bear in mind that once they are scattered they are gone forever. You may want to consider keeping a small portion of the ashes just in case you, or someone in your family, someday wants to have them as a remembrance or use them in a piece of jewelry or other keepsakes. 

There are numerous options for scattering ashes in Canada, and the scattering of ashes is not prohibited on public land in most Provinces, however it is wise to check the laws and regulations for your Province beforehand. You can also find more information for your province in the province guides on our Funeral Resources page.

As mentioned above, the laws governing ash scattering differ between Provinces but as cremation is increasing in popularity, so too are the variable and creative options for how and where ashes can be scattered.  The most important factor is to respect the wishes of the deceased, and the scattering of their ashes should be performed as part of their wishes, or as a legacy in tribute to their memory.

Scattering cremated remains into a river

One option for scattering ashes is into a river, and this is a common practice for certain cultures. Certain Provinces, such as Manitoba and Alberta have guidelines for scattering ashes into waterways, Ontario reportedly has a designated site where cremains can be scattered into waterways. The Hindu Society of Saskatchewan is calling for a designated site in Saskatoon where ashes can be scattered without disruption.

According to a report by the city’s administration, scattering cremated remains in Saskatoon is neither prohibited nor expressly permitted by the city and currently there are no federal or provincial laws respecting the scattering of related remains into the South Saskatchewan River. However, they are recommending city councilors and the mayor approve to instruct the Community Services Division to draft guidelines for scattering cremated remains into the river and to look at the possibility of constructing a permanent, dedicated location for scattering cremated remains.

This is just one example of how scattering remains has become a more normal part of our modern culture as cremation continues to grow in popularity in Canada, with a cremation rate of 73.1% in 2020 according to Statista.

Scattering cremated remains at sea

Another option is scattering ashes at sea, which can be considered another more natural final disposition, giving us a sense of freedom and oneness with nature. This is probably why outdoor settings of natural beauty are often desired. Scattering over bodies of water has been a favorite, keeping in mind the concept that all life began in the sea. Many see scattering ashes over water or water burial as the fastest route to the greatest dispersal. If to be scattered far and wide is the goal, then the sea is appropriate, even more so than a river.  Many companies offer ash scattering services at sea, especially close to coastal areas.  There are a whole plethora of businesses offering unattended or attended scattering at sea packages, chartering a small yacht to full memorial ceremony aboard a large sailing vessel.  Prices vary enormously but usually start from as little as $100. 

Creating a Memorial Diamond or Cremation Diamond

If you have decided, or your loved one requested, to have their cremated remains scattered, you may still want to have some small personalized memorial tribute. You can scatter their ashes in your/their chosen place, and still retain a small amount of their remains to be converted into a unique memorial diamond. 

When an adult is cremated about 2 kg of ashes are produced. Usually, about 500 grams are required for the process of converting the carbon DNA into a diamond.  This means that you can still perform an ash scattering with the remaining ashes.

A memorial diamond is exactly the same in its synthesis as a natural diamond, only the process is performed in a laboratory and is speeded up.  But the diamond that is created is essentially a pure gemstone, and absolutely unique that it is a signature of the DNA of the person from which it was created.

A cremation diamond can be kept in a presentation box, or is more commonly crafted into a special piece of jewelry in order that it can be kept close at all times, and handed forward through generations.

Other considerations for memorializing your loved-ones ashes

There are many other ways to memorialize your loved-ones ashes, from getting them made into a memorial reef, to turning them into art in the form of glass or even portraits by mixing ashes into paint, to even more bizarre trends such as mixing a small part of cremains in tattoo ink, taking it one step further from getting a tattoo to pay tribute to a loved-one.

Ultimately, it is your choice what you do with the cremated remains, memorializing your loved-one in a way that respects their wishes, whilst also allowing family and friends to pay their respects or create a lasting memorial to remember them by and pass down through generations. But in reality the options are endless and only hindered by your creativity and desire to remember them in a way you see fit and that pays tribute to who they were and what their wishes.


Written by

Andrew joined the team at Canadian Funerals in 2017. He heads up the content management for the website.