Saskatoon committee approves spreading cremated ashes in river

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There are currently no bylaws prohibiting or allowing the spreading of ashes in the river.

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Jillian Smith Aerial view of the South Saskatchewan River Aerial view of the South Saskatchewan River Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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A city council committee has approved a request to formally allow the scattering of cremated remains in the South Saskatchewan River.

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The Hindu Society of Saskatchewan asked the city in April for a dedicated spot to spread the ashes of loved ones into the river — an important ritual for them and people of many other faiths.

“This feels excellent. Just awesome. We needed that, and I think it’s about time we got this dedicated spot,” said Leela Sharma, president of the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan.

A report from the city administration presented to the governance and priorities committee on Monday states there are currently no bylaws prohibiting or allowing the practice.

It says the Meewasin Valley Authority and Water Security Agency are not concerned about the environmental impact of small amounts of remains being put in the river.

The Hindu Society of Saskatchewan and the Sikh Society of Saskatchewan were consulted; if approved, the dedicated location would be open to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation.

In the Hindu faith, the ritual of releasing cremated remains in running water symbolizes the circle of life, Sharma said.

“There is no death in Hinduism. There is only transformation,” she added. “By immersing the ashes, the family members are helping the dead to purify all his sins.”

Developing a dedicated sport would be a two-phase process, the report states. The first is developing a framework for releasing the ashes, and the second is the selection of the actual location.

The administration proposes that only a small amount of a person’s total cremated remains should be scattered, and that the remains must be completely pulverized, with no bone fragments.

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Scattering would not be allowed within 200 metres upstream of a water intake, and no scattering would be allowed in areas where there is a lot of public activity.

“Family members have their unique way of celebrating the life of their departed loved ones and scattering the cremated remains can be a very unique and beautiful way to honour the lives of their loved ones. It is very special,” Sharma said.

City council still needs to give its final approval.

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