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Ontario rescinds funeral home vaccination proof requirements

Decision brings ‘great pleasure’ to Sault funeral home director
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SAULT STE. MARIE — The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) has rescinded proof of vaccination requirements for visitors to funeral homes.

The regulation, announced earlier this month, would have permitted funeral guests across Ontario to attend an indoor funeral from Sept. 22 to Oct. 12, 2021 only if they had proof of a negative COVID-19 rapid test taken 48 hours before the funeral.

After Oct. 12, 2021, all funeral guests, except for children under the age of 12, would have had to show proof of vaccination or written proof of a medical exemption from a doctor or nurse in order to attend a funeral.

“I write to you with great pleasure to say that the BAO has rescinded the previous vaccination regulations and they no longer apply to any services held at the funeral home,” wrote Terra Seaton, funeral director with Northwood Funeral Home in Sault Ste. Marie, in an email Thursday.

The news comes as a relief to funeral directors, grieving families and their friends, the rescinding of the order applicable to all funeral homes in the Sault and Ontario.

The Bereavement Authority of Ontario acts on behalf of the Ontario government. 

“As funeral directors, our hearts break as we explain to each family what is and isn't allowed,” Seaton wrote after the BAO’s earlier ruling. 

However, a new directive released by the BAO Thursday states:

“Proof of vaccination requirements do not apply to:

  • Funeral services including rites, ceremonies, visitations, receptions, or social gatherings held in places of worship.
  • Funeral services including rites, ceremonies, visitations, receptions, or social gatherings held in funeral establishments, cemeteries, crematoriums, and similar establishments that provide bereavement services and are licensed to operate under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002.
  • Funeral services conducted in any indoor setting, limited to the actual funeral rites or ceremonies, but not an associated social gathering or reception. These settings can include any meeting or event space, conference centre, or convention centre.

Proof of vaccination requirements still apply to social gatherings or receptions associated with a funeral service, rite, or ceremony in a meeting or event space, conference centre, or convention centre.”

Funeral homes across Ontario were not happy about the implementation of the vaccine passports in funeral homes, Seaton told SooToday Thursday.

The directive would have forced funeral directors to turn families away or face penalties and fines.

“We received phone calls and emails from the public inquiring how it would affect them. We encouraged those families to reach out to the BAO and voice their concerns,” Seaton wrote.

Seaton indicated she could not speak to what specifically persuaded the BAO to rescind the restrictions, but stated “I am happy that all will be able to honour their loved ones. As always we will continue to safely serve our community.”