To deal with death is to deal with something uncertain and almost uncontrollable. To say that it’s difficult is a complete understatement. That being said, it’s even more challenging when someone dies abroad.
When our loved one passes on miles away from home, there are certain rules and regulations that surround it. Furthermore, you would need to be more knowledgeable on certain things in order to lessen the burden of transporting a body and to make the process as less painful as possible.
Transportation of the deceased varies from one location to the next. If you intend to fly in back to Canada, then the following information will be helpful.
We’ve collected information from the Government of Canada, Canadian Funerals and the Immigration Group. Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind.
Legal Requirements & Reminders
The following information discusses the first few things you need to do when someone dies abroad and you need to bring the remains back to Canada.
According to the Government of Canada:
What to do first:
- Choose someone to make decisions for the family. If possible, this person should have the required documentation, such as the deceased’s will and any powers of attorney.
- Notify the deceased person’s travel insurance provider at once to avoid unnecessary delays or complications.
- Find a funeral home in the region where the death took place that is experienced in international funeral arrangements.
- The funeral home within the region will guide you through the next steps and help you with arrangements in both countries should you wish to have a service in Canada.
- Living loved ones must cancel the deceased’s benefits including Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Social Insurance Number, Employment Insurance and tax-related payments, and personal identification. Finally, the passport of a deceased person should be returned to Passport Canada.
- Keep in mind that every country has different policies and procedures and local laws apply when a foreigner dies there.
- Your family’s representative must obtain an official death certificate issued by the country where the death occurred.
- The funeral home you choose in the country where the death occurred will obtain the official death certificate for you and will register it according to local laws.
- Make sure you ask for several copies of the death certificate as it is required at a number of stages.
- If it is not in one of Canada’s official languages, the death certificate must be translated into English or French by a certified translation service.
- You may need more documents depending on the circumstances surrounding the death and whether the human remains or ashes will be sent back to Canada.
- If there is an investigation into the death, you may require a medical, police or autopsy report and/or toxicology results.
- In some countries an autopsy may be required.
- If local laws prevent cremation in the country where the death occurred you may need a mortuary passport to transport the remains to a nearby country for cremation.
- If the ashes are being repatriated to Canada, you should have a cremation certificate. If the body of the deceased is being repatriated, the Canada Border Services Agency may require certification that the individual had no communicable diseases before they will release the body to you.
Repatriation of Ashes
Repatriation means the transportation of a deceased national back to their home and country of nationality. In this case, it’s in Canada.
- Passengers are required to carry the remains in their hand luggage and be ready to present the death certificate, cremation certificate and the funeral director’s or crematorium sealing certificate stating that the urn contains only the ashes of the deceased.
- It is important for you to confirm with the airline you are traveling on first.
- Transporting ashes is as much a security issue as a customs matter.
Canadian government offices abroad will not:
- Pay for the burial, cremation or repatriation of the remains of a deceased Canadian citizen.
- Intervene in private legal matters.
- Translate official documents.
- Provide legal advice.
- Investigate or intervene in a local investigation.
It can be quite expensive to bring remains back to Canadian soil. In most cases, the funeral home in the selected region will require a payment guarantee or payment upfront before it will start the process. The entire ordeal may take a long time. Moreover, the costs of local customs interpretation or translation services for a ceremony overseas can pile up.
Bereavement Travel Discounts
According to Canadian Funerals:
Many of the major airlines offer special discounts for people needing to travel due to a recent bereavement. You would need to check specifically with the airline of your choice as to what criteria qualify for discounted bereavement travel.
Travelers eligible for Air Canada’s Bereave Fares are the deceased’s: spouse (includes common law as well as same sex partners), child (includes adopted / step / grand / great grand), parent (includes step / grand / great grand / in-law / common law in-law), daughter, son, father, mother (includes legal / in-law / common law in-law), brother, sister (includes step / half / in-law / common law in-law), aunt, uncle, niece, nephew (includes those of spouse and common law spouse), legal guardian (with proof of judgment) and spouse of legal guardian. All above include in-laws of same sex partner.
Should you need additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact the Canadian Embassy where you are as well as the Emergency Watch & Response Centre.