A Rhode Island woman discovered the wrong body in a casket that should have contained her mother. (iStock)

The federal government is assisting the family of a Canadian woman who died on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten but whose body may have been sent to the wrong place.

A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says the department has been in touch both with officials on St. Maarten and relatives of the Canadian, whose identity has not been released.

The trouble began last month after a Rhode Island woman found someone else's body in a casket that was supposed to contain her mother, who died suddenly while vacationing in St. Maarten.

That family believes a hospital or funeral home confused the American woman's body with that of a woman from Ottawa — both died on the island around the same time.

They think their relative was sent to Ottawa by mistake and cremated.

The St. Maarten government says it has launched an investigation into the matter.