SERVICE NOVA SCOTIA: More stringent regulations for the funeral industry

Increasing fines for funeral home owners is one of the many steps government is taking to introduce stricter and transparent rules for funeral homes and crematoriums. Amendments introduced Sept. 18 to the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Act and the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act will protect families and bring greater accountability to the funeral home industry.

"The serious and significant issues families experienced with certain funeral homes over the last few months were unacceptable. No one should experience such devastating situations," said Service Nova Scotia Minister Geoff MacLellan. "We are helping to protect families and improve the public trust and accountability in the funeral home industry."

Amendments include:

  • increasing fine amounts from $500 to up to $25,000 for individuals and up to $300,000 for businesses. Licensees can also be prosecuted for offences up to three years after the incident happens or the registrar becomes aware of the incident
  • making hearing schedules, decisions, convictions, fines and penalties for licensees public
  • requiring funeral homes and crematoriums to label human remains at all times while in their custody.
  • introducing two official positions for consumer representatives on the Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. This means, non-industry members, including the registrar, will increase to 43 per cent of the board 

The amendments align with the recommendations in the report prepared by the board following an inquiry earlier this year into funeral services provided by Serenity Funeral Home.

Consultations were also held with the board, the Funeral Services Association of Nova Scotia and licensed funeral directors.

In addition, Service Nova Scotia and the board will work with families on a case-by-case basis should they want to observe a hearing.

"The Nova Scotia Board of Registration has fully endorsed and supported the consultation phase and implementation of these changes regulating the funeral sector. This board will continue to work with Service Nova Scotia to put into place the necessary regulations to ensure the people of Nova Scotia feel more confident in the processes of body identification and practices within the funeral homes in our province," said Adam Tipert, chairman, Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

Service Nova Scotia licenses and regulates funeral homes. The board, under provincial legislation, is responsible for licensing and regulating funeral directors, including a professional code of conduct.

Most changes will come into effect upon proclamation. Board appointments will take effect in spring 2019 to allow the board to transition to the new structure.

There are 87 funeral homes and 16 crematoriums in the province.