Recently Bronte Provincial Park became the first Ontario provincial park to install a sign identifying an area for carrying out ceremonial practices involving scattering cremated remains on Crown land.
The sign and accompanying bench were installed due to an increase in requests from members of the public to clarify the rules around where cremated ashes can be scattered. It has been legal to scatter ashes on Provincial Crown land. The sign simply makes it clear. Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla supported this significant initiative.
“It is important for many families of various cultures to scatter the ashes of a loved one as part of the ceremonial practices of their faith.” said MPP Damerla.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources recognizes that the practice of scattering cremated remains is an important part of the religious beliefs of many families,” she added.
When Manohar Sharma, an 84-year-old volunteer at the Sri Radha Krishna temple in Scarborough passes away, he has instructed his family to have his cremated remains scattered in a river right here in Ontario, there is a designated stretch at Lake Ontario, in Pickering (in the Brock road area) where cremated ashes can be scattered. “I have lived in Canada for the past 25 years and have no close family left in India,” he said.
Manohar is among the growing number of South Asians who are now opting for their ashes to be scattered in a local river rather than having it taken to the Ganges or another river in India.
“The cremated ashes of Hindus are required to be scattered over a body of water, the cremated remains of Sikhs need to be go in flowing waters of a river, lake or a waterfall,” says Inderjit Bal, Co-founder of Brampton Crematorium and Visitation Centre.
Inderjit Bal founded this crematorium back in 2000 and his office regularly advises bereaved family members about designated water bodies where they can scatter the ashes of their loved ones.
“Upto 90 percent of families take the remains in urns back to India where it will be scattered in an Indian river, quite often the Ganges, ten percent scatter it here. We direct families to go to Credit River, in Norval,” he said.
In the 60s, fewer than 5 percent of Canadians were cremated, today that number is over 60 percent, according to the Funeral Association of Canada. While non-Hindus and Sikhs who cremate their loved ones tend to scatter them at places that were dear to the deceased person which could be the woods, mountains or their own backyards, Hindus and Sikhs are obliged to scatter the cremated remains in flowing bodies of water.
Some years ago residents of homes along certain stretches of the Credit River were finding urns, flowers, diyas and coconut shells used in pujas washing up on their properties. In the absence of proper information or guidelines, many families simply scattered the cremated remains and other puja related items anywhere they thought was convenient.
Now there exist guidelines like ashes need to be scattered at least half a kilometre from the shoreline.
According to Pandit Roopnath Sharma of the Shri Ram Mandir, most people know the way cremated remains were scattered in the old country. “Here in Canada there are different laws designed to protect the eco-system. We recommend that families scatter only flowers and leaves and not fruit,” he said.
Meanwhile South Asians in the Peel Region and Oakville area are happy that they have a scattering garden at Bronte Park.