The Canadian Funeral Industry is an industry still in a state of flux following new legislation and combating new trends in consumer choices. As a global industry – the bereavement industry is witnessing a move towards integrated services. And Canada is no different from many other nations where cremation is on the increase.
Canadians are now demanding different services and the idea of a ‘traditional’ funeral is no longer the preferred choice. The Funeral Service Association of Canada claims to be “seeing an emergence of a preference for non-traditional and very simple funerals….with an increased number of cremations performed each year.”
The cremation rate in Canada reached 73.1% in 2019, with a forecast to grow to 77.6% by 2024.
So why is cremation on the increase?
Most in the industry would claim that the primary reason is cost. Whereas a traditional funeral with burial can amount to a total cost in the region of $10,000, a simple cremation can start at around $1,200. People who are opting for cremation are now just thinking practically.
The economic recession and a more practical, as opposed to sentimental, approach to arranging a funeral have resulted in families opting for less traditional, and more conventional, and simple solutions. When it comes to money, many are realizing that extravagance on a funeral does not necessarily make it any more dignified and befitting than a simple personalized memorial. This trend could also be considered an aspect of a cultural shift in societies attitude to death. Other cultural shifts in attitude are influencing this trend – the current environmental agenda has encouraged more people to question the eco-benefits of burial, especially when the deceased has been embalmed. Not only that, but burial plots in metropolitan areas especially, are becoming expensive as availability becomes limited.
How our notion of funerals and memorializing is changing.
In addition, many families are choosing to arrange a more contemporary memorial service following cremation. This means that the time-critical process in arranging a funeral is mitigated. Families can arrange the cremation and gather the family together at a time and place that is befitting to conduct a suitable memorial to their loved one. In many instances, this avoids the traditional notion of a chapel-led ceremony and instead may be held at a place of significance to their loved one. This may involve an ash-scattering memorial or some other special tribute.
Although these cultural trends may have influenced this rise in the cremation rate, most in the industry acknowledge that cost is certainly the key factor. The question remains as to whether this trend is likely to change if, and when, the economy improves?
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on funeral services in Canada
2020 delivered another huge impact on the funeral industry. When mandatory social distancing and the cessation of funeral service gatherings were enforced, many families had no choice but to arrange a simple, direct cremation for their loved one.
It is likely this cultural consumer shift will have a lasting impact on the funeral sector as we know it. Funeral homes had no choice but to offer online arrangement services, live-streaming of funeral ceremony’s, and secure docu-sign document processing. It presented a ‘new’ alternative to families of how to conduct funeral arrangements without ever having to visit a funeral home.
Although I believe we will return to a ‘new normal’ where social gatherings and rite of passage ceremonies are vital to our social nature, it is inevitable that the impact of COVID-19 will leave a lasting legacy of our death care sector.