Volunteers invited to join new funeral co-operative

Islanders who would like to volunteer with a new Haida Gwaii funerary co-op are invited to join a planning meeting on Oct. 29.

Islanders who would like to volunteer with a new Haida Gwaii funerary co-op are invited to join a planning meeting on Oct. 29.

George Westwood has voluntarily provided funerary services on Haida Gwaii for the last 30 years and Matthew Pierce, his assistant for the last 15 years, says they would like to grow the service.

“We’re looking at expanding into a formal co-operative or association,” said Pierce, adding that it will be an islands-wide initiative.

“It will be all volunteer,” he said.

Co-op members could help with everything from preparing grave sites and organizing funerals to driving the hearse or performing coroner-type services.

Thanks to Northern Health and the Village of Queen Charlotte, Westwood and Pierce will be able to use a small, recently-built morgue that was used temporarily by the Queen Charlotte hospital while the new one was under construction.

Haida Gwaii’s volunteer funeral services made headlines last year when the B.C. government pointed out some legal issues, but Pierce said Westwood recently met with B.C. Attorney General and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton and “made peace.”

They discussed the idea of having funeral services commissioners in B.C. a role modelled partly on marriage commissioners.

The first funeral co-operative meeting will be held at noon on Saturday, Oct. 29 in the Queen Charlotte Youth Centre at 924 3rd Avenue.