My grandfather always loved his special spot by the lake. He had many happy memories of fishing and spending time with his family there. In fact, one of his last wishes was that his ashes be scattered on the shore of the lake. But when the time came for us to scatter the ashes we all had the same question – this is a public place, are we allowed to scatter ashes here?

In British Columbia, a deceased person must be either buried or cremated. After cremation, there are options for what can be done with the ashes. Most cemeteries have small plots for cremated remains or scattering gardens. You may also wish to scatter the remains in an area that has special significance. These areas can include both private and public land. What you may not be aware is that, as long as you have permission of the landowner or local government, there are no limitations as to where ashes can be spread.

Of course there may be specific instructions left on how you are to dispose of the ashes. Under BC law, if there is a written preference by a deceased person about the disposition of his or her ashes, the wish is binding. This means that if Grandpa had specifically requested in his will, in writing, that his ashes be scattered by the lake, there is an obligation to follow his request (provided the request is not unreasonable, impracticable or will cause hardship).  The death of a loved one can cause many strong emotions and often families may be faced with a challenge on how to best carry out the wishes of the deceased. By providing for these arrangements beforehand, loved ones can focus on celebrating a life, knowing that they are following Grandpa’s wishes.

If you are looking for more information about this topic and funeral services in BC, you can learn about your rights and responsibilities on our website.


Cemetery and funeral services: do you know your rights?
Writing your will
Steps to take following a death