Exhumation Laws

by MSO

The word "exhume" comes from the medieval Latin word "exhumre". The "ex" means "ex" and "humre" means to inter.

While some cultures deem the exhumation of a body sacrilegious, there are rare instances when bodies are needed to be disinterred. Whether the disinterment is because of a court order requiring forensic examinations; change from burial to cremation as mode of disposal; or transferring to a newly acquired family plot, it’s not an easy task.

Whatever the reason for a body to be exhumed, unlike television shows such as CSI, Forensic Files, Criminal Minds and the like, the process is often lengthy, requiring the strict adherence to legal procedures.

In order to disinter a body, a license to exhume must first be obtained. If the person is buried in Consecrated grounds, permission from the church must also be acquired, including permission from the owner of the grave or the owner of the cemetery. If the body is to be repatriated abroad, a cadaver certificate is required as well as the exhumation licence.

Prior to the exhumation, it is mandatory that an Environmental Health Officer is present in order to supervise and ensure the proper respect for the dead is maintained and that public health is protected.

As exhumation is underway, cemetery staff will ensure the following:

  • The correct grave is opened;
  • The exhumation commences as early as possible to ensure maximum privacy;
  • Health and safety is maintained for all workers, ensuring protective clothing and necessary equipment are used;
  • All parties present show due respect to the deceased person and to adjoining graves;
  • The new casket is approved by the Environmental Health Officer;
  • All human remains and all pieces there within the casket are placed within a new casket;
  • The new casket is properly sealed;
  • The area of exhumation is properly disinfected;
  • Satisfactory arrangements are in place for the transmission of the remains.

Read more:

Ontario Cemeteries Act (Revised) | canadalegal.com

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