Province shuts down Islands’ after-death service

  • Mar. 17, 2015 4:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverFrom the Feb. 27 editionFacing a death in the family is never easy and due to a recent order from Consumer Protection B.C., it’s likely to get even harder for the people of Haida Gwaii.The provincial agency recently ordered the only islander providing funeral services for grieving families to immediately cease his activities or face legal action. For many years, Queen Charlotte resident George Westwood has volunteered his time to help friends and family dealing with the loss of loved ones by handling and transporting the bodies and offering emotional support to families. As far as the Observer could verify, Mr. Westwood never accepted payment for his services, nor has he represented himself as a licensed funeral director, but that is what Consumer Protection says he was technically doing.Acting on a tip last October, Consumer Protection investigated Mr. Westwood and concluded his activities were in violation of at least three provincial Legislation Acts and ordered the immediate halt to his activities.Without Mr. Westwood’s assistance, the islands’ communities are now on their own to find an alternative solution for after-death services. According to Consumer Protection, there are three options. The first is to find a willing individual to send off-island for the appropriate training and apprenticeship. That individual, would then be licensed and legally able to operate as a business in the community. Another option would require families of the deceased to handle the funeral arrangements themselves. The third option, advised by Consumer Protection, is to work with a licensed funeral director off Island. The nearest is found at Ferguson Funeral Home in Prince Rupert. However, the company said because they are a small, two-man operation it’s unlikely they would be able to commute to the island. Families would be responsible for transporting bodies to Prince Rupert where the licensed funeral director could then prepare it for burial. Ferguson told the Observer extra fees would apply for Haida Gwaii residents. Being such a small operation Ferguson Funeral Home is also unable to conduct satellite meetings with locals on island. Which was also suggested by BC Consumer Protection as another solution. Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin showed concern about the matter at a recent village council meeting. Mayor Martin has also reached out to provincial ministries, looking for a suitable solution.   North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice said “I would like to thank George Westwood for providing such an invaluable service to the communities on Haida Gwaii over the past many years. My office has been in contact with the Village of Queen Charlotte regarding the matter, and have offered our assistance, in whatever capacity it may be needed, as they work to transition from the volunteer efforts of Mr. Westwood to a process that is in line with the current regulations around after-death services.” In a letter to the Observer Mr. Westwood expressed frustration over the matter. “To occasionally help neighbours or friends at the time of a death in the family is allowed,” he wrote, “but to do so on an ongoing basis, one is deemed to be acting like a funeral director.”It has been a privilege and honour to have been of help when it is most needed, but I must refrain in the future.”Mr. Westwood declined to comment any further on the matter. You can read his full letter on Page #.

Just Posted

Blaze consumes dwelling in Masset

The Masset Fire Department received the first call around 8 p.m.

All Nations Driving Academy gets $360K boost from province

Terrace-based driving school bridges gap in services for remote northwest B.C. communities

Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational pink and coho

Four sections and tributaries remain closed

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read