A few weeks ago, I was asked an interesting question: “How do I go about arranging to be buried on my family farm?” I admit I was a little bit rusty on the answer (given that I’ve been away on parental leave), so I thought I’d share what I learned about the steps involved!
First of all, it’s important to understand Consumer Protection BC’s role with regards to the cemetery sector in BC. Our office is responsible for regulating the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act, a law that speaks to the creation of cemeteries in BC and to the licensing of cemetery operators (amongst other things).
In British Columbia, it’s illegal to bury a human body anywhere but in a designated cemetery. So in order to arrange for burial on a private family farm, one would first have to get the property established as a “place of interment” (a cemetery, in this case). Here are the steps to getting this done:
Step 1: Certificate of Public Interest
First, the property owner applies for a Certificate of Public Interest through our office. This process makes sure the land is suitable to be used as a burial site, and triggers a legal notation on the land title. This protects the property going forward (meaning that it can’t be sold, leased or developed in the future, unless special permission is granted).
Step 2: Getting licensed
Once the Certificate of Public Interest is complete, the property owner has to become licensed as a cemetery operator through our office. At a high level, cemetery operators are responsible for the care and maintenance of cemeteries.
Step 3: Renewing operator licence
Every five years, the property owner has to renew their cemetery operator licence (you don’t have to pay renewal fees for non-commercial cemetery licences).
There’s a lot to know about this topic and there is more information on our website about this process, including checklists and forms about establishing cemeteries. General information about the cemetery and funeral sectors in BC (for consumers and business) is available on our website.
Cemetery and funeral services: do you know your rights?
Grandpa’s wishes: scattering ashes
Are you allowed to mail cremated remains?
28 thoughts on “Can I be buried on the family farm?”
Is there a ‘minimum’ size of land that can be classified to do this?
Hi Rhonda — Great question. There’s no minimum size of land (in fact, designating a smaller parcel of land for the cemetery may be in your best interest in case you ever decide to sell your non-cemetery property). That said, there are some other aspects of your land that will be looked at, including drainage, road access and underlying rock formations. Here’s some (technical) language about this in case it’s of interest: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/images/content/licensing/cemetaries/forms/cf_cemetery_checklist_cpi.pdf
This is a pity in BC. I buried my Mom’s ashes in Ontario at my cottage (was hers). It was a wonderful thing to do. I used a pink quartz marker which I can see often when I go there. The only thing the funeral home encouraged was not to scatter the ashes as there are still bone fragments.
btw, your posts are excellent.
Cremated remains can be spread/scattered/buried on private land in BC. These instructions refer to whole body burial.
I’m so glad you find our posts useful, John! Thank you for taking the time to say that.
I’m pretty sure that the majority of graveyards located on Indian reserves aren’t registered cemeteries, as IRs are considered federal – not provincial – Crown lands.
You’re right, Lynne — This is a topic that came up on our Facebook page, too. BC’s Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Law does not speak to cemeteries established on First Nations reserves (as I understand they are overseen at a federal level). Other rules also apply in instances of Treaties (details about the protection and preservation of cemeteries will be covered in the individual agreements) as well as ancient First Nations burial sites (generally speaking, these could be protected by the Heritage Conservation Act). I hope that helps!
I really like your post and surely appreciate your experience that you have discussed in the blog. Thanks for sharing.
For some reason I am under the impression that this part of the act was changed recently, making it more prohibitive with respect to burial on private land. Is this so?
Also, I’m curious to hear a rough estimate of the total costs of the process that you’ve described above.
Hi Cassandra, thank you for asking us a question here! The Act has not changed in recent years (there were some small changes to the regulation in 2016 but not related to this issue). In terms of a rough estimate, it might be best for you to phone us as we would like to ask you questions about your situation. Would that be possible? Our toll-free number is 1-888-564-9963 and we are here Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
I found out in 2015 my late mother Amy was First Nation born 1914 in Fountain Indian Reserve (“Xaxli’p”) outside of Lillooet B.C. I’m in the process of writing a story book about her two lives as she kept a hidden dark secret about other life. I just returned from Texas Creek where she and her husband William Lee Dickey Jr. lived on a 360 acre ranch. In the middle of a large bench land field is a burial graveyard surrounded by barbed wire with approx. 25 burial graves. Her children are buried there. I spread her remaining ashes there. My cousin is a former Chief of Fountain and he was surprised about this burial ground on private property. I talked to the owners who said it is a registered burial ground. QUESTION: How do I find out that it is a registered site? I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Hugh, thanks for reaching out to us here with your question. I have passed your info along to the appropriate people in our organization and someone will be in touch shortly. Thanks!
On Iceland, near Reykjavik, to meet the legal requirements, a farmer built a little church and next to it established a small one grave graveyard to fulfill the last wishes of his dying young wife.
Hi Pavel, thanks for sharing – That’s a beautiful story.
It’s a government cash cow. They’re worried about disease and stuff but animals die everyday and there seems to be no worry. If you own land all you should have to do is get a burial permit you shouldn’t have to go through a bunch of red tape. They make it so it’s difficult to be buried on your own land yet people have been doing that in the 1700’s, 1800’s and the early 1900’s. What doesn’t the government have their hand in??? Even when you die they still take money (taxes) from you that could’ve went to family members or to help pay for funeral costs. People need to really be challenging the government on all these issues. Times have changed so why can’t this in all of Canada.
Hi Shanon, I’m not sure if you want to make a formal complaint about the issue you are bringing up but if you are, you can contact the Office of Ombudsperson (here’s the link to their website) or depending on the details of your concern, you may want to write to your local MLA. We have written a blog post about how to do this effectively.
Agreed Ash’s take up such a small amount of space when they are put in a biodegradable urn which can’t hurt or harm anything if you dig a big enough hole because it will eventually become part of the ground. What about all of the rodents and deer and animals that die and deteriorate in the ground on my property does that count too?
Just found out, from the great grand son that his great grand father and grandmother are buried on my land in Victoria BC, back in 1912 or so. is there any way to confirm this? When was the requirement to obtain a cemetery designation come into effect?
Hi Sly, thank you for posting your question here. There is most likely no public record on burials dating back to early 1900s especially on private land. At this point, you may have two options. One is to designate the section of your property as a “place of interment” which is outlined in this blog post. The other option may be to disinter the remains and move them to a cemetery. Having said that, I would highly recommend that you contact us (here is a link to the contact us page) with more details so we can assist you further.
My aunt was buried in the forest north of Pemberton B.C. in 1920 at age 18.
At the time the land was owned by my grandfather and it was part of his homestead.
There is a head stone and a white picket fence has been built and re built over the years.
The 100 acre original home stead was sold to a developer in 1995. part of it was subdivided into 2 acre lots.
The land survey shows the gave site with a separate parcel complete with a right of way to and from the close by road.
How secure is this?
Do I as the closet surviving relative have the right to build a new fence and choose if it is wood or metal chain link? It would stand the test of time best.
Hi Robert, thanks for reaching out to us here. Would you mind giving our inquiry centre a call? I think we may need more info from you in order to answer your question. Our phone number here is 1.888.564.9963. We look forward to hearing from you! Thanks.
How long does the process of obtaining a certificate and license normally take?
Hi Jason, thanks for your question. I think it would be best to talk to our Licensing and Inquiry team about that (they may also have more information on current inquiry volumes and waiting times). Our phone number here is 1.888.564.9963. Thanks
i have a partial owner interest in a registered family cemetery. This land has been a cemetery for many decades ,recently some of the other owners have indicated they will apply to the bc supreme court to have the property of the cemetery expropriated under the partition act .question. is the partition act of bc applicable in a long standing family cemetery.
Hi Perry, thanks for reaching out to us on our blog. I forwarded the email you sent us about this to our Licensing and Inquiry team so they can respond to you – as this is their area of expertise. If you would prefer not to wait for an email response, you can call the licensing team at 1.888.564.9963. Thanks!
I encourage the leadership of the Province of BC to modify the pertinent statutes in regards to burials and cemetery regulations. Please forward the following concerns.
The funeral and cemetery industry in North America is fraught with issues that directly correlate with making a financial profit. The society largely has been convinced that the system, that the customs, prescribe that burials must involve preservation of the body for a) a long duration to permit ‘viewing’, b) to keep the body from quickly decomposing after burial. In using toxic chemicals to alter the body, it became ‘necessary’ to vault the body in a concrete bunker. Further, due to the utilization of heavy machinery on cemetery grounds, it became ‘necessary’ to use concrete reinforcement methods to prevent cave-in or compression of the grounds.
The result… cemetery grounds that are wastelands below the surface — full of concrete and toxic chemical run-off. Hardly a natural process. Far removed from placing a body directly in the ground or within a natural wood box. Burying a toxic laden body within a concrete bunker at a cost of $7000+ is not acceptable.
Please take action to enact change – change that would mandate cemetery operators to provide natural burial options and capped fees which are specified by the government and tied to GDP/inflation rates, at maximum. All who agree, consider raising your hand!
I agree, David, thank you for spelling this out. I know there are natural woodland burials in some spots across Canada, and I hope that this becomes more and more the norm. The composting system that is being tried out in Washington state is interesting, though it’s a high-tech solution to an inevitable event. I’d much rather decompose as part of the soil food web without the use of electricity and dehydration.
This is Perry again well I found out today our cemetery has been ordered to be sold by the Supreme Court of bc the fact that it has been a family cemetery for decades means nothing.