Burial or Cremation?

Burial is the traditional choice for Albertans, but cremation is gradually becoming more accepted. Deciding between burial and cremation with depend on many factors, including the wishes of the deceased, personal values and religious beliefs.

Cremation may be slightly more expensive in rural areas because of the additional cost of transporting the deceased to a crematorium in a larger center.


Burials must be made in registered cemeteries. There are two ways to do this. The first is the traditional earth burial, where the deceased is placed in a casket and lowered into the ground. The second type of burial is relatively uncommon: it involves placing the deceased and the casket permanently in a mausoleum, or tomb, above or just below the ground.

Cemeteries are owned and managed by churches, local municipalities or private businesses. once you decide on a cemetery, and before you agree to purchase a plot or other goods or services, ask for a written statement listing all costs. Compare - cemetery costs vary widely. Here are some of the things to inquire about:

Plot prices

The price of a grave varies, depending on the cemetery and location of the grave within a cemetery.

Veterans’ rates

Cemeteries must give reduced rates to veterans, although they might not provide space nearby for other family members. The cemetery may allow a spouse’s cremated remains to be buried in or scattered on the plot.

Grave markers

Some cemeteries restrict the style of grave markers and limit you to their approved list of suppliers. You may have to pay an installation charge.

Permanent care costs

There may be fees for services such as lawn maintenance.

Vault or rough box requirements

Does the casket have to be enclosed in a vault or box in the ground?

Double occupancy

Cemeteries may allow two burials in one plot, one deep and one shallow.

Grave opening and closing

Is there a fee?

Non-resident surcharges

If the deceased lived outside the area, a surcharge may be applied.


Before a body can be cremated, the Medical Examiner must review the Medical Certificate of Death, signed by the attending physician. the Medical Examiner will then issue a Form 4, which gives approval for the cremation.

There is no legislation in Alberta requiring that a casket be used in cremation. Funeral homes and crematoriums most often request the deceased be enclosed in a container which is combustible, of rigid construction, and equipped with handles. You may supply your own home-made container providing it meets the requirements of the crematorium.

After cremation, all that usually remains of the body is 2 to 3 kilograms of pulverized bone and ash. These materials are pure and represent no health risk. You are free to take care of the cremated remains as you see fit. Most crematoriums and funeral homes will provide temporary storage for the remains until you decide what is to be done with them.

Cremation eliminates any possible DNA identification.

If you choose, the cremated remains may be disposed of by the crematorium, or returned in a container to the next of kin.

Cemetery facilities for receiving cremated remains vary. It’s best to check with the cemetery in question. Some have an urn garden where cremation lots are available for burial of an urn. Others have a columbarium, an above-ground structure where urns are held. Another option is to bury the cremated remains in a family plot. Some cemeteries also offer a common scattering garden.

Scattering remains

The family may choose to scatter the cremated remains in a particular place, or the deceased may have left specific instructions for this. However, because the act of scattering is irreversible, it is recommended that this decision be discussed or thought through in advance.

Scattering of cremated remains is usually permitted on crown and other publicly owned lands. Permission must be obtained ahead of time in all cases.

In national parks (e.g. Banff, Jasper) scattering cremated remains in water is prohibited, but remains can be "cast to the wind". In provincial parks, forests and wilderness areas (e.g.. Fish Creek, Kananaskis) scattering is allowed anywhere, but permission is required to scatter remains over rivers and lakes. Some municipalities allow the scattering of cremated remains in parks and golf courses, although there may be time and location restrictions.

Please refer to the document "Saying Farewell" published by the Government of Alberta.  You can access this document at  http://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/library/egovdocs/2005/als/152015.pdf




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