I read in the news about the recent murdered women and even attended the vigil for one of them. I’ve also been reading about the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women.
There is so much publicity about the women and the lives they lived; so many of them lived tragic lives. Yet, in all this, there is no mention of the personal struggle to find the money to help bury their loved ones.
Sandy Banman, a grassroots organizer in the Indigenous community, who has attended many vigils, has often advocated for the families of Missing and Murdered Women.
“The families often have to scramble to find the money from various sources for the funeral,” said Banman.
“Women deserve the extras. Women are worth the nice flowers and decent clothing for burial,” she said.
The funeral director at the Eternal Grace Funeral Home said a decent funeral could run anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000; that would cover everything associated with a funeral.
According to Employment and Income Assistance (EIA), a person who was on social assistance or EIA at the time of their death would only get the basic funeral costs covered.
EIA policy covers all expenses for a basic funeral with either burial or cremation. This includes a basic casket or a cremation container, the actual burial or cremation, the cemetery fees, the equipment to lower the casket and a basic funeral service including honorarium for the officiants.
EIA does not cover the cost of flowers, a luncheon, or clothes for the deceased. For the past several years, EIA has barely raised their rates for funeral expenses; rates went up by just 2% in in the last year.
They pay between $2,500 to $3,500 for a person on social assistance. If one lived on the reserve, welfare would pay the Band back.
The problem is many families can not get any financial assistance for funeral costs from their own Band.
In order for EIA to cover burial costs, the service must occur between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. because EIA or social assistance doesn’t cover costs of overtime on weekends or evenings if held at a funeral home.
If a wake is required for the service, the cost of overtime could run from $700 to $1,000.
Families that have lost a loved one to violence could get assistance from Victim Services for funeral expenses, to a maximum of $5,400.
If the family had to take their loved one up north for burial, the expense of a charter flight would not be covered.
It’s easy to understand what Sandy Banman meant by the families having to scramble to find the money to bury their loved ones.
Go Fund Me pages raise only so much, possibly due to the negative media stories. No extras for flowers. No obituary about the woman or no mention of the family that loved her. Maybe second hand clothes to bury her in. There might not even be a wake due to the added cost. What they could get would be a pauper’s funeral without a headstone. A headstone is not covered by any agency.
Arranging a funeral is a difficult task under normal circumstances. Trying to arrange a burial service when a loved one has died to violence is stressful. Then having to scramble to find the funds to give the person a respectful burial is morally wrong.
Families of Missing and Murdered Women have to fight for justice for their loved ones. Each day is a struggle to find answers as to the why. Each day they live with the memories of their loved ones they have lost.
Why must they struggle with the most difficult and painful part of putting their loved one to rest?