Funeral directors forced to subsidize burials of veterans

Due to the insufficient subsidies provided by the federal government for the funerals of war veterans, funeral directors are often left covering the remainder of the costs when veterans’ families are unable to afford doing so. (Andrew Duffy, “Canadian funeral directors say they’re paying to bury war vets“, Postmedia News, 24 October 2012)

$3,600 is provided by Veterans Affairs Canada (through a non-profit organization consisting of member funeral directors known as the Last Post Fund) to help cover the costs of funerals for veterans of the Second World War and Korean War, as well as retired soldiers who have died of a service-related disability. However, since this figure has not been modified in a decade, it does not reflect the increase in funeral costs over time.  Currently, the costs of administering a funeral consistent with the requirements set out by Vetarans’ Affairs’ Funeral and Burial Program, which includes the usage of a “wooden casket of a certain quality”, range between $6,500 and $9,000 depending on the province.

Phil Fredette, the government relations chair of the Last Post Fund, told Andrew Duffy of Postmedia News that this state of affairs has left funeral directors feeling short-changed by the government:

 You won’t find a single funeral director in Canada who will refuse to do a veteran’s funeral regardless of what the government pays: it’s a service to our country. All we want is fairness…We think it’s important to give veterans the dignified funeral and burial services that they deserve.

The Fund provides assistance for around 1,800 funerals every year, and although it has petitioned the government 12 times for an increase of its cap on subsidies, their requests have all been refused.  The federal government’s unwillingness to increase its contributions have led some provincial and municipal governments to shoulder a portion of the financial burden in the form of social assistance. Nova Scotia, for example, provides $3,800 to cover funeral and related costs for veterans’ families who qualify, and various municipalities in Ontario provide between $4,000 and $5,000.

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