Alberta releases new guidelines for scattering cremated ashes

Alberta officials have released a new set of guidelines on how to scatter the cremated remains of a loved one in the province. Getty Images

Alberta has released new guidelines that will help families honour loved ones respectfully and lawfully after death.

While it’s never been illegal to scatter ashes in Alberta, the new guidelines provide clarity on how it can be done.

“Families in Alberta have been uncertain about their rights at a time when they were mourning the loss of a loved one,” said Christina Gray, MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods.

“With these new guidelines, family members can be true to their cultural and spiritual heritage and honour their deceased family members without worrying about breaking the law.”

Cremated ashes may be scattered on unoccupied provincial government-owned Crown land or water, including provincial parks, without official government approval.

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But the new guidelines suggest that “care must be taken to ensure that ashes are not scattered near water treatment intakes and facilities or places where recreational water activities occur.”

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The changes come after months of consultation with various community groups.

“Families were very often flying home to other countries to perform these last rites of their loved ones at great expense, lengthening that grieving process,” Gray said.

“We felt strongly that Alberta needed to follow the spiritual and cultural diversity of our citizens and allow them to say goodbye to their loved ones in a way that works for them.”

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Families are encouraged to consult a licensed funeral director about cremation options and acceptable methods of handling cremated remains.

Options include:

  • Buying a compartment (niche) in a cemetery columbarium
  • Buying a cemetery plot for the burial of cremated remains
  • Scattering cremated remains in a cemetery with the cemetery operator’s approval
  • Scattering cremated remains on private land with a landowner’s permission
  • Scattering cremated remains on unoccupied, provincial government-owned Crown land or water (including provincial parks) with no need for government consent

The new guidelines only apply to provincially owned lands and waterways. Families wishing to scatter cremated remains on federal or municipal land or water should consult their local governments.

The guidelines reflect similar policies already in place in Manitoba and Ontario.

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Further details on the new guidelines will be released later this spring.

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