Saskatoon metropolis council permits cremated stays to be dispersed in river – Saskatoon

Saskatoon City Council voted to allow people to release cremated remains at funerals into the South Saskatchewan River.

It is a measure aimed at Hindu and Sikh communities in the city. Distributing ashes is an important funeral rite for both religions, and the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented anyone from visiting India to distribute ashes in the Ganges or Punjab Province, depending on whether they are Hindu or Sikh.

“It was tough, (it) was … not very good emotionally,” said Leela Sharma.

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Sharma is the former president of the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan.

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She told Global News that the ceremony is a very important part of the burial and mourning process and likened the Ganges to the Indian Ocean to an individual soul reaching its ultimate destination after death.

Jaswant Singh, a representative of the Sikh Society of Saskatchewan, told Global News Sikhs hold similar beliefs, with the ashes being put into agitated water, meaning that one “goes through the river into the ocean and then becomes part of the water.”

Both said the inability to travel to India to uncover ashes there stopped the mourning process for many people and prolonged a burning time.

The Saskatoon bylaws did not specifically allow the practice, but neither did they prohibit it.

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The unanimous vote of the council on Monday officially allowed the funeral ritual to be performed under certain conditions.

The vote obliges the city administrations to develop guidelines for practice and to publish them within several months.

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Some of the recommended guidelines include that the ashes must be scattered between May 1 and October 31, that funeral parlors be prohibited from releasing ashes near public activity areas, and that the remains be completely pulverized.

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The vote also forces the city to “continue to respect the opportunity” to identify a location and build a permanent site for the scattering of remains.

It stipulates that the location is a quiet and secluded place that is open to all religions.

Singh said that Sikhs do not erect monuments, so a site provides a place to remember loved ones.

Sharma told Global News that she strongly supports the site as it would allow many local family members to participate.

She and Singh both said that it is important for new Canadians and their children to feel at home in their home country, to have a permanent and committed location.

“This is a very critical point for the coming second, third, fourth, fifth generation,” Singh told Global News.

“They will say, ‘I was born in Saskatoon, I need a place here where I can say goodbye (mine) for good.”

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