Cremation rates rising in Ontario

Two 19th-century gravestones in the snow, with winter bushes in the background. Richard Wintle / FlickrVision, Getty Images

What do people do with their loved ones’ remains? The answer varies depending where they live.

Most Ontarians are cremated when they die: In 2011, 58.7 per cent of deceased Ontarians were cremated, according to statistics from the Ontario Board of Funeral Services.

But this practice isn’t evenly distributed across the province.

The map below shows the rate of burial versus cremation by forward sortation area (FSA, or the first three characters of your postal code). Darker regions indicate a higher rate of cremation; lighter, a higher burial rate. Statistics are from 2010. Government of Ontario.

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Over 80%70-80%60-70%50-60%40-50%Under 40%

In Toronto, the highest rates of cremation are in certain downtown neighbourhoods, especially near the waterfront and the Church and Wellesley area, although the residents of several neighbourhoods on the west end strongly prefer burial over cremation.

Cremation seems to be a more popular choice overall in Ottawa, where none of the areas seem to prefer burial. Large parts of northern Ontario, including Sudbury and North Bay, as well as most of Thunder Bay, also significantly choose cremation.

“Cremation has become increasingly popular mainly because the cost of cemetery property has become too expensive for some,” said funeral director Scott Miller, President of the Ontario Funeral Service Association. He also said that immigration is playing a role – as people move to Canada from countries where cremation is more common, they will choose cremation here, affecting the overall rate.

The rate of cremation is slowly ticking upward. In the 1990s, said Miller, the rates of cremation and burial were about equal, but cremation has since become the more popular choice, at about 51.6 per cent in 2005 and now 58.6 per cent in 2011, according to statistics from the Ontario Board of Funeral Services.

Still, some people continue to choose burial. “In many situations cultural values play an important role in the decision to inter a body rather than cremate. Families that have long held large numbers of cemetery plots for the many generations of the family also continue to select interment over cremation,” said Miller.


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