So where did Canada's first cremation take place? At Mount Royal Cemetery . . . at the turn of the century, crematoriums did not exist in Canada, despite significant demand. In June of 1900, Sir William MacDonald, a strong supporter of cremation, came forward with a generous donation for the construction of an appropriate building, and by 1901, Canada's first crematorium had opened its doors on the grounds of Mount Royal Cemetery.

The evidence of cremation dates from antiquity. Pottery vessels from the Neolithic period, filled with the ashes of several individuals, have been found throughout Europe. Between 1400 BC and AD 200, cremation was the preferred burial custom, especially among Roman aristocrats. The Caesar family was one of many to choose cremation as a means of disposition. Between the 3rd and 19th centuries, Christianity became widely accepted and its doctrines forbade cremation because of the belief that the body could not be resurrected if it were destroyed. Early Jews also prohibited cremation believing it was the desecration of a work of God. Orthodox Jews, the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, and Muslims are still forbidden to cremate their dead. Other cultural groups, especially in India, continue to practice cremation. Today, cremation is practiced by some Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus.

According to the Cremation Association of North America there are numerous reasons why people choose cremation, and the decision is a very personal one, whether for someone planning their own services in order to alleviate their family from that burden, to family members choosing cremation as a loving and respectful way to memorialize their loved one. Research has shown the following nine factors as considerations in the cremation decision:

  • People are dying older and choosing cremation for themselves.

  • Migration to retirement locations is increasing.

  • Cremation has become acceptable.

  • Environmental considerations are becoming more important.

  • Level of education is rising.

  • Ties to tradition are becoming weaker.

  • Regional differences are diminishing.

  • Religious restrictions are diminishing.

  • Greater flexibility in memorialization services.

Cremation as part of a funeral service

When considering pre planning for cremation as part of a funeral it is important to think through the types of services that you might want, such as

  • Cremation with visitation and embalming

  • Cremation with visitation and perhaps the use of a rental casket

  • Memorial service – with the cremated remains or without

  • Church services coordinated with clergy

  • Receptions following a service with catering

  • The final disposition of the cremated remains, burial or scattering in a cemetery, placement in a niche, or to be kept by a family member.

All of these considerations can be important and legitimate components of a funeral for many families. It is a good idea to discuss these issues with your loved ones before making final decisions. All of the services listed above are available through our full service funeral complexes and it would be wise to speak with a funeral service professional if your family’s needs would be more appropriately met by these types of services.

For more information on the process of cremation please consult our 21 questions about Cremation document.