Do the paperwork: Rules for travelling with cremated remains

Funeral director Geoff Carnell explains the strict guidelines for transporting cremated remains.

Ashes need to be in a proper container, says funeral director

Licensed funeral Director, Geoff Carnell (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

​Russell Laight was jailed for five days in St. John's after his friend's ashes were mistaken for the drug ketamine.

While he may have had the best intentions, funeral director Geoff Carnell says some simple planning could have avoided the trouble.

"We're here for a reason," said Carnell.

He explained to Here and Now's Jonathan Crowe what the rules are when you travel with the remains of a loved one.

A special plastic or carboard urn can be scanned by airport security (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Q: What is the correct way if you're travelling, to transport cremated remains? 

A: Generally you should transfer the cremated remains into a temporary urn which can be again, placed into a permanent urn when you get to your destination.

These plastic urns, or paper or cardboard urns, are capable of being screened … They're placed in plastic bags. They're tied. There are special disk numbers so they can be traced back to the actual funeral home if they are misplaced.

The funeral home will also provide either a cremation certificate, a letter indicating a statement of death ... indicating who has passed away, time of death and those types of things, or if need be, a letter to the airline.

If need be, they [Border Services] can call us and we can identify the fact that the cremation was done by us ... You don't want to get to that point, you do need [the] documentation.

Ceramic or metal urns are not recommended for transporting cremated remains. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Q: If you don't have a tag, you don't have it in the correct box, you just got it in a plastic bag that should set off alarm bells I guess? 

A: It should, absolutely because, I mean, the texture of cremated remains they are finely ground material. They could look like anything and if there are no identifiers, no letters, no documentation, they can be mistaken for a number of different things.

Cremated remains can be placed into a permanent urn when you arrive at your destination. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Q: Is it legal to scatter ashes?

A: In a national park you should seek permission to scatter. That's law. I mean, in large national parks you can get lost fairly quickly and scattering will take place without anybody knowing it.

There's no specific laws in this province with respect to scattering. Ironically you're not allowed to scatter in cemeteries. I think that should change and I hope we see some change in the future, but your're not allowed to.

There's no actual specific regulations or laws in Newfoundland preventing you from scattering in the woods for instance, or at the cabin or in a water course, so you can do so.

What to do if a loved one passes away out of province?

If you're away on holiday and someone close to you dies, Carnell said you should contact a funeral home in your own community back home, and they'll take care of all the necessary paperwork and transportation.