Transporting Human Remains

Typically when we make funeral arrangements, we rely on a licensed funeral home to provide the transportation for human remains. However, a legal representative of the deceased (executor, next-of-kin) can take personal responsibility for the transfer of their deceased loved one. The body must be handled in a safe, dignified and respectful manner; there are processes to follow and there is paperwork to be obtained.

Before the private transfer can occur, an application must be submitted to and approved by Consumer Protection BC, the government body responsible for cemeteries and the transfer of human remains. The Private Transfer Permit Application is easily found on-line. Once completed and signed by the executor or next-of-kin, it can be emailed to The office prioritizes these requests and the application may be granted within a few hours. However, the office is only open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. If a death is expected to occur over a weekend, an application can be made prior to the death occurring. The signed Private Transfer Permit Application must be attached to the box during transport.

The other document which must be attached to the box during transport is a Burial Permit and Acknowledgement of Registration of Death. This requires a more lengthy process to obtain and is the topic of a previous article, “Documentation Required When a Death Occurs”.

Before a transfer can be made to a cemetery or crematorium, appropriate arrangements need to be made. If the deceased is to be cremated, a Cremation Authorization form must be completed by the legal representative. Not all crematoriums will open their facilities to families; to use the only crematorium in Campbell River you must deal with the associated funeral home. Sutton’s allows private transfers to their crematorium in Courtenay, as does Yates in Parksville and HW Wallace in Duncan.

A typical vehicle for transport is a mini-van, SUV or pickup truck with a canopy. During transportation, the deceased must be placed in an enclosed rigid, leak-proof container and not visible to the public. Also, the person transferring the remains must be in the vehicle or it must be locked and secure at all times.

Quadra’s Community-Led Death Care has a transport container available for the community to use, as well as volunteer drivers with suitable vehicles. They would be grateful for more volunteer drivers and/or vehicles.

A Private Transfer Permit is only valid while transferring a deceased within British Columbia. Outside of British Columbia, permits must also be obtained from other provinces.

A death can often result in many difficult decisions being made in a very short period of time. By knowing your options beforehand and planning ahead, it is more likely that decisions made will align with your values, rather than those of a commercial system.