Rise in Unclaimed Bodies in Canadian Provinces Financial Strain on Families

Funeral – Rise in Unclaimed Bodies in Canadian Provinces: Financial Strain on Families

Canadian provinces see a rise in unclaimed bodies due to high funeral costs. Learn how financial strains affect families and the measures taken to address this issue.


Toronto: In recent years, several Canadian provinces have witnessed a troubling increase in the number of unclaimed dead bodies. 

Funeral costs, which have significantly risen, are cited by next of kin as a primary reason for not claiming their loved ones’ remains. 

This has led to provinces taking measures such as building new storage facilities and seeing a surge in memorial fundraisers.


Funeral Cost Increase: A Key Factor

According to industry trade group estimates, the overall cost of a funeral in Canada has surged from about $6,000 in 1998 to approximately $8,800 at the top end today. 

This financial burden has made it difficult for many families to afford traditional burial services.

YearAverage Funeral Cost (CAD)

Ontario: A Significant Increase

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has seen a dramatic rise in unclaimed bodies. 

In 2023, the number rose to 1,183 from 242 in 2013. 

Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, revealed that in most cases, next of kin are identified but are unable to claim the body due to financial constraints. 

The percentage of unclaimed bodies due to financial reasons increased from 20% in 2022 to 24% in 2023.


Other Provinces Face Similar Challenges

Quebec and Alberta have also reported significant increases in unclaimed bodies. 

In Quebec, the number grew from 66 in 2013 to 183 in 2023, while in Alberta, it rose from 80 in 2016 to 200 in 2023

Newfoundland and Labrador faced an uproar over unclaimed bodies being stored in freezers outside hospitals, leading to the construction of a permanent storage unit.


Addressing the Underlying Causes

Jim Dinn, leader of Newfoundland’s opposition New Democratic Party, emphasized that the issue goes beyond storage. 

“It is about addressing the underlying cause causing the accumulation of bodies and removing the barriers so people can have a dignified burial,” Dinn stated.


Funeral Costs Across Locations

The cost of burial varies significantly based on location. 

For instance, an adult single grave with the Mount Pleasant Group costs about $2,800 on average but can soar to $34,000 in midtown Toronto

This excludes additional costs such as opening and closing the grave, funeral services, tombstones, and taxes.

LocationAverage Cost of Single Grave (CAD)
Midtown Toronto$34,000

Growing Need for Memorial Fundraisers

The financial strain has led to a surge in memorial fundraisers. 

The number of fundraisers on GoFundMe increased from 36 in 2013 to 10,257 in 2023

Despite government efforts to provide financial support, such as the federal government’s C$2,500 top-up to the Canada Pension Plan death benefit, advocates argue that this is insufficient to meet the rising costs.



The rising number of unclaimed bodies in Canadian provinces underscores the urgent need to address the financial barriers families face. 

As funeral costs continue to rise, more comprehensive support is essential to ensure that every individual can receive a dignified burial.


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