In Canada there are no actual laws associated to the scattering of cremated remains. Scattering is permitted on any Crown land, including in water and a permit is not required. However, there are some ground rules that should be followed. In all cases, permission should be obtained prior to scattering and it is always recommended that the scattering be done with discretion. Please respect the surroundings and be environmentally sensitive.
Some things to think about…
If you chose to NOT inter your loved one in a cemetery there is no guarantee that your special spot will remain sacred.
The location may not be accessible or be vastly different in the future.
There may be no fixed location to visit and, if done on private property, consider the property may be sold in the future.
There will be no marker or headstone.
You cannot return to place flowers or other mementos. At least you shouldn’t.
If you choose to go for it then here is a suggestion…
Take photos of the location, the sunset or bird formations that catch your eye and
share with relatives who aren’t present to share the experience or
because you may want to remember every little detail from this very special moment.
Many cemeteries offer a place within their limits for scattering and they are required to keep records of the scatterings. These records may end up being of great importance to your future family members. I personally believe that our future generations should be considered when we are making the important decisions of today.
Many people find comfort in keeping a tiny portion of ashes. Cremation jewelry can be a great keepsake!
Understand What You Will Be Handling
Many people are surprised to discover that the remains are not the fine powdery ash that they were expecting. Depending on the equipment that the crematorium uses the remains could resemble course sand or be pebble like. After all, you will be scattering bone fragments.
I am not sure if anything can prepare a person to see someone they love reduced to a bag of bone bits, but the knowledge that cremated remains look nothing like ashes may be a starting point.
The amount of cremated remains often comes as a surprise to people. The average weight of the cremated remains is 6-8 pounds.
This is not only determined by the weight of the person being cremated but by what they are being cremated in. There will also be ash from the casket or cremation container; the heavier the casket the more ash it will produce.
You don’t have to scatter all the ashes in one place, you don’t even have to scatter all of the ashes.
There are many beautiful keepsake urns available that are ideal for keeping a small portion.
Be careful in the wind! Maybe in a movie it would be comical to see a pound of finely pulverized bone fragments catching a gust of wind and blasting into the faces of every bystander. I doubt it would be so funny in a real scattering situation.
I came across a piece of advise from someone that had scattered her husband’s ashes and this is what she had wrote:
“Ash sticks to skin, and when your hands are covered in your loved one’s ashes, wiping them on your jeans might feel a tad disrespectful. If you’re releasing ashes somewhere without easy access to water, bring a bottle of water and dry paper towels for clean-up afterwards.”
I would bring wet wipes with me – I use those things for everything!
That type of insight can only come from someone with experience. Do you have friends or family that have scattered before? Don’t be afraid to ask them questions – you would be surprised at how forthcoming people will be.
Another great option is a Scattering Tube Urn – They are made specifically to simplify scattering of cremated remains (ashes). The removable lid is easy and convenient to use. Because there is no plastic or metal component to the urn it can be composted or recycled after its final use.
Biodegradable Floating Urns
If you plan to purchase a floating urn that is designed to biodegrade over time – plan for letting it go into deep water. This type of urn does not sink immediately nor will it instantly dissolve. They are meant for deep water where the urn will momentarily float then slowly sink and biodegrade over time on the ocean or lake floor. A floating urn will be completely useless in shallow water.
The most common problem found with biodegradable floating urns is that whoever has transferred the cremated remains has NOT put them into the biodegradable bag that usually accompanies the urn. This will cause the urn to float rather than sink.
Another great piece of advise:
If you’re putting the cremated remains into a body of water, buy or pick fresh flowers and release them together. This will allow you to visually follow the ‘ash flow’ and makes the ceremony slightly less melancholy. Remember to de-stem the flowers in advance.
A couple notes to mention regarding Alberta & Ontario…
Scattering is permitted, however there may be some restrictions in the forest and wilderness areas of the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Your Alberta Funeral Directors should be up to date on all Acts & Regulations in their province.
There are no provincial regulations that prohibit the scattering of cremated remains on land, sea or by air. However, no person is allowed to scatter anything on any property without permission from the landowner.
Strange fact – National parks prohibit the scattering of cremated remains in water,
although you may “cast them to the wind” without obtaining permission.
I suppose it would be worth mentioning that a floating urn would not be an acceptable option in the water of a National Park.
UPDATE: Alberta released new guidelines in the Spring of 2019 – New guidelines state that ashes may be scattered on unoccupied provincial government-owned Crown land or water, including provincial parks, without official government approval.
You are allowed to scatter ashes on Crown land in Ontario that is unoccupied – including those covered by water. Crown land includes provincial parks and conservation reserves, and the Great Lakes. Same as the other provinces; no person is allowed to scatter anything on any property without permission from the landowner.