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Canada: How Diversity Has Changed the Way We Handle Our Dead

on 2014/6/2 20:30:00 ( 1847 reads )


ONTARIO, CANADA, May 29, 2014 (Caledon Enterprise): When his father died more than 15 years ago, Hindu priest Pandit Roopnauth Sharma took his ashes down to Lake Ontario. Sharma looked around, made sure no one was watching and placed them in the water. “I realized there was a lot that was wrong with that,” recalls the spiritual leader of Mississauga’s Ram Mandir Hindu temple and president of the Hindu Federation. Not having a proper place to scatter the ashes - a sacred ritual for Hindus and Sikhs - was “very stressful and very painful.” That prompted the federation to work with community members, conservation authorities and government officials, resulting in the provincial guidelines of 2009 allowing ashes to be scattered on Ontario’s Crown land and water. Now, the Hindu Federation plans to ask Mississauga and Oakville to erect signs and create designated areas for the scattering of ashes along Lake Ontario. Signs would prevent curious onlookers from asking what’s going on or saying it’s not permitted. Plus, it would alleviate discomfort some Hindu families have. That’s just one of many examples of how the Greater Toronto Area’s ever-evolving demographics are redefining how we handle our dead. Hospitals now allow Buddhists to stay by the bedside of deceased loved ones, chanting prayers to help the spirit leave the body. Interfaith couples can be buried together. And cemetery operators have turned to Feng Shui masters for advice on positioning graves. Years ago this would have been unheard of. But now, a concerted effort is being made to accommodate cultural and religious needs for final disposition in a region that’s among the most ethnically diverse in the world. At Mount Pleasant Group (MPG), funeral homes have units for burning oils and ghee during Hindu services; and they set up a table during Buddhist services for relatives to leave the deceased offerings, such as vegetarian food, fruit and tea. In recent decades, there’s been a steady increase in cremation rates - today it’s about 60 per cent in Ontario. In part, this has been driven by immigration - many Buddhists choose cremation and it’s required of Hindus and Sikhs. Because Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists must witness the cremation, MPG is upgrading its four crematoriums, from small industrial-like spaces to areas that comfortably accommodate large groups. Often, the oldest son — or next of kin — begins the cremation process as tradition stipulates. Much more at source.

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