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City of Iqaluit may pay for residents' funeral expenses

How funeral and burial services would work when run by the city still needs to be figured out by city staff and voted on by council.

City's finance committee passed a motion to cover burial costs

Burial services can cost a family in Iqaluit about $6,000. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Iqaluit residents' funeral expenses may soon be covered by the city. 

At a finance committee meeting Tuesday, a motion was passed to allocate money in the 2021 budget to cover funeral expenses. 

"Regardless of race, or any other dividing factors, if you live in Iqaluit and you want to be buried in Iqaluit, my proposal is that you would be covered under [an] eventual city-paid funeral," said city councillor and finance committee chair Kyle Sheppard. 

Sheppard introduced the proposal. The city will look to see if Inuit organizations, and the territorial and federal governments, would contribute to funeral and burial costs. Money for funeral expenses could also be generated through the city's general fund and an increase in taxes. 

Iqaluit only has one funeral directory which charges between $6,000 to $7,155 for a burial.

The biggest expense is a casket at $3,500. Other fees are for things like transportation, corpse preparation and administration.

Iqaluit city councillor Kyle Sheppard introduced the proposal for the city to cover residents' funeral costs. (CBC)

Many families are unable to pay these costs, leaving them scrambling to raise the money after someone dies. 

Deputy mayor Janet Brewster said the level of service provided is also causing families stress. 

"I think it's an opportunity to do better for families," said Brewster. "It is also an opportunity to set and meet higher standards for service for families in what is often the most difficult time in their lives." 

The proposal says direct payments from the city to the funeral provider would give "administrative relief for the service provider" and an agreement between the provider and the city would guarantee an "adequate level of service provided." 

I think it's an opportunity to do better for families.- Janet Brewster, Iqaluit deputy mayor

How funeral services would be provided still needs to be worked out by city staff. Those ideas will need to come before council and be voted on. 

How much money will go toward funeral expenses will be considered during the 2021 budget review before the end of the year. 

"This is huge," said Mayor Kenny Bell. "This is a big change for our low-income citizens and just citizens in general." 

The Apex cemetery is maintained by the city but does not provide funeral services. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The government of Nunavut will cover the cost of funerals in certain circumstances. These are specific to medical travel clients and medical travel escorts if someone dies while on an approved trip. 

The Department of Family Services covers burials for those under the public guardianship program or the Children and Family Services Act. 

It would still be up to the government of Nunavut to cover funeral expenses in these situations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie McKay

Reporter

Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC in Nunavut. She has worked as a reporter in Thunder Bay, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Jackie also worked on CBC Radio One shows including The Current, Metro Morning, after graduating from Ryerson University in 2017. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.

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