Funeral industry worries new fee in Saskatchewan won’t cover services for poor

The president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada says services are not cheap and the costs are not going down. File / Global News

The president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada says Saskatchewan needs to clear up confusion about how the industry will be compensated for funerals for poor people.

Yves Berthiaume said Tuesday the province should be clearer about details of its new coverage of $2,100 for funeral services for people on social assistance.

READ MORE: Provincial government announces changes to funeral coverage for people on income assistance

He added that funeral homes feel the burden is being downloaded onto them because that amount is not enough to cover all expenses.

“I think they should have come to (the industry) and said, ‘We would like to relook at it. We have some thoughts of going down … what would be your concern,’ and then we could sit down and look at it,” Berthiaume said Tuesday in a phone interview from Hawkesbury, Ont.

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“Costs of providing service for rituals are not going down. They’re not cheap.”

But all families “regardless of your status in life” need to be shown respect as they say goodbye to their loved ones, Berthiaume said.

As of July 1, the province cut the amount it will pay to funeral homes for clients on social assistance from $3,850 to $2,100 as a way to save the cash-strapped province money.

In March, the province said it would cover basic preparation of a body, transfers, a standard casket or urn and regulatory fees, but families would have to foot the bill for additional things such as viewings.

Advocates for low income and homeless people called the cuts dehumanizing for those who are already marginalized.

On Monday, Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said the government made a mistake when it cut some aspects of the coverage, and announced the province will provide up to $700 more for viewings or rituals when requested by next of kin.

She said the government also will provide up to $700 for embalming if needed and an additional $925 for cremation fees.

“If I calculate the $2,100 and then the $700 for the embalming and the $925 for cremation, well then we’re back up at $3,700, so what’s the ministry want to accomplish at that point?” asked Berthiaume. “I don’t know.”

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Berthiaume maintained there is still confusion over what’s covered and what isn’t.

“If the family doesn’t have a plot, do they pay for the plot or not?” he asked. “It’s not only the funeral. What do we do to bury or (with) the ashes … These are all actions that need to be looked at and there’s a cost for everything.”

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