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
24 thoughts on “Grandpa’s wishes”
I really enjoyed reading that piece. I helped a friend that was carrying around his mother’s ashes.. he felt the “nat Bailey stadium” cause his mom loved baseball. He never called.
“Nat Bailey ” spokespearson made arrangements on “ladies Day” for him to scatter the ashes on home plate.
It was nice.
My husband’s beloved uncle loved the race track.
They were very accommodating and he now rests at the horserace track at the PNE. His favourite place.
This was and still is a great comfort to the surviving family.
My father worked at the track and now his ashes are there as well.
Hi Sherri, thanks for sharing with us. I’m happy it sounds like your father had his wishes followed.
I want my little dog’s ashes mixed in with mine. I have told my family this is what I want done. She was my first and only for 15 years and I miss her dearly.
So can u only spread the ashes anywhere if the deceased specified this in writing? My mom I do not believe put it in writing but told us all and never knew u needed permission to spread ashes in the ocean where she wanted it done?
Hi Renee, I believe you can scatter ashes in the ocean. If you were scattering on public or private land you would need permission from the land owner.
My husband verbally wished part of his ashes to go off the back of a cruise ship. I just want to know about transporting those ashes on airlines and customs etc. anyone know?
Put them in your checked baggage in a non-breakable sealed receptacle. Not your precious ceramic urn.
Take your bag to the fragile/oversized baggage area. Not the regular conveyor belt.
Hi Linda, you would need to check with the cruise line and if you are also travelling by air with the specific airline. I believe most will allow it but will have certain requirements for containers.
When my former husband passed away, I bought a cremation plot near a plot his mother bought for herself for when she passed. I have been to the cemetery many times, and I have noticed, as this is a smaller town, that there are some headstones missing of local people who have passed away. Where are they? There is no memory , only that I remember they were here. Years ago someone I knew, not mentioning names, was responsible to bury her sister and brother in law, and seeing as she had a large piece of property, she buried them there under trees. Then she sold the property. I don’t know how new owners would feel about that. Some might not like. The fact that Aunty is buried outside living room window, and uncle is under bedroom window?..
Hi Brenda, As per our legislation, human remains can only be buried in a licensed cemetery. As for missing headstones from a licensed cemetery, you would need to ask your question directly to them as there may have been a need for the removal.
I have a relative who did not tell any of our that she was spreading my uncles ashes on my grandparents graves in BC. I went to take a look one day and it looks like someone throw up on my grandparents grave. This is in a grave yard. Does my aunt have the right to do this? If not who can we contact to fix this?
Hi Marie — Thank you for your question and I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. You may wish to contact the operator of the cemetery to see if your aunt got permission to spread the ashes.
Unfortunately, the section in BC’s funeral services law about “rights of disposition” do not apply in your particular circumstance, as “cremains” are not considered to be human remains (here’s information about the rights of disposition, if you’re interested to learn more about this: http://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/consumers-cemetery-and-funeral-homepage/faqs#Q1).
Your other option would be to seek legal advice — the Canadian Bar Association of BC has a low-cost Dial-A-Lawyer service which you can learn more about here: http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Lawyer-Referral-Service I hope this information was helpful, Marie.
My husband verbally let the family know he wanted his ashes spread at Alouette Lake. This is a provincial park do we need permission? Does it matter if it is the lake or on shore?
Hi Terry, thank you for your question. In BC, there are no limitations as to where ashes can be spread but it needs to be done with permission. In your case, you may want to contact the provincial park directly. You can direct your question about spreading ashes in the lake or on shore to them as well. I hope this information helps, Terry.
I was wondering if it is ok to dispose of ashes in Stanley Park and if so is permission needed?
Hi Sandra, it’s our understanding that ashes can be spread as long as you obtain permission from the land owner (private or public). As Stanley Park is a public property, you may want to contact the City of Vancouver to get a permission. Here is their contact information: http://bit.ly/29QjKji
Hello John — First of all, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. For your question, we always suggest reaching out to the property landowner for permission to spread ashes (so in this case, the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort). Sending healing wishes your way.
My daughter passed away in August this year at the tender age of just 27.
One of the major highlights of her life, about which she often talked, was the time she spent living and working in Whistler during the skiing season of 20011 / 12.
Towards the end of her fight with cancer and as she drifted in and out of consciousness, I mentioned us going back to Whistler a couple of times. Remembering those times always brought a smile to her face which was a beautiful respite from the pain she experienced nearly constantly.
Could you advise from whom I need permission to scatter Lauren’s ashes on the Whistler slopes?
For info, I’m based in the UK.
Hi Melaina ~ since “cremains” are not considered to be human remains, then the dozen or so people who have requested to have their ashes spread on my rural remote 50 acre property should not run into any roadblocks. Is that correct? and may I advertise that people can scatter their cremains here if they wish to?
Hi Nicola, if people want their ashes spread on your property, as long as you are ok with the concept, then it is fine. When you say “advertise”, if you are planning on receiving payments for it, it is my understanding that there will be issues.If you have any further questions about this, please feel free to contact us at toll free 1-888-564-9963. Thank you, Nicola.
My mom verbally told us that she wanted her ashes spread on the shore of Skaha Lake in Okanagan Falls. This was her view from her home and her happy place. I believe this would be a public park so would need permission. Could you please advise on who I would need to contact
Hey Suzanne, thanks for reaching out. You can spread ashes wherever you like if you have permission. If it is a public park, you will need to contact the municipal government that oversees that park. In this case, a good place to start may be Penticton parks and recreation. Best of luck!