Quebec's 1st-ever death expo attempts to break taboo, offer comfort in afterlife

Death happens to all of us, but we rarely talk about it, says the founder of Quebec's first-ever death expo called the Salon de la mort. She wants to break that taboo.

Expo offers urns as busts of loved ones, coffin tests and paintings with ashes

People who went to the Salon de la mort could test out a coffin in the so-called "rest area." (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

"What are the two common threads between us all?" the founder of Quebec's first-ever death expo, the Salon de la mort, asks.

"We are all born and we all die."

And yet, Phoudsady Vanny says, one is celebrated and planned for while the other is almost taboo.

This weekend, organizations and companies that make up the industry surrounding death gathered at the Palais des congrès in Montreal. 

Notaries and funeral homes set up booths, along with artists who create pieces using ashes and those who arrange funerals for pets.

"It's a community of people that have maybe figured out non-conventional ways in dealing with end-of-life," Vanny said.

Les Urnes Boréales offer urns that are busts of your loved one. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Death is 'scary, but reality"

André Dubois came with friends to check out what was on offer at the expo.

Diagnosed with colorectal cancer in February, Dubois says his last round of chemotherapy is at the end of the month but here he is, just in case.

"It's hard to leave, this is why [death] is scary, probably," he said. "But it's also reality. We need to be prepared."

André Dubois, who is blind, came to the Salon de la mort to prepare for his death. He is currently in chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer, and although optimistic, he says he wants to be ready. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Turning death into art

Anthony Riccio turned his passion for painting into a service that offers family members a different way of remembering those who have passed on.

After a friend's father died, Riccio took his ashes and painted them into the canvas.

"I would have paid a lot of money to have my mom in my living room," he said.

The paintings are tailored to what the family members think would best fit the deceased's taste.

Anthony Riccio works on one of his paintings, which includes the ashes of a client's loved one. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

The expo also showcases artists who put the ashes into jewlery or those who, instead of urns, make busts of the deceased for the ashes.

There is also a rest area that contains two coffins: one for testing out, and the other to draw on.

The expo is on Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $11.50 for admission.

At least one expo-goer found some 'peace' inside the coffin while testing it out. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)


Sarah Leavitt


Sarah Leavitt is a multimedia journalist with CBC who loves hearing people's stories. Tell her yours: or on Twitter @SarahLeavittCBC.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?