Reporting a death
Although it is not mandatory to do so, the death abroad of a Canadian citizen can be reported to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or, from Canada, to our Emergency Watch and Response Centre. Consular officials may be able to provide guidance in the administrative steps for the repatriation of the body or ashes to Canada.
You should register the death according to local regulations and obtain several copies of a death certificate from the proper local authorities. It may be necessary to have at least one copy of this local death certificate (authenticated if necessary by officials at the nearest Canadian government office abroad in order to register the death with the Vital Statistics Office of the Canadian province or territory where the deceased last resided. The Canadian government office abroad may charge a fee for this consular service. The death certificate may also need to be translated into English or French; please verify directly with the appropriate provincial/territorial Vital Statistics Office how this translation must be performed. Canadian government offices abroad do not translate documents.
You may also need to cancel the deceased's various benefits including Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and tax-related payments, and/or personal identification. The passport of a deceased person should be returned to Passport Canada. You may also wish to consult Service Canada’s webpage on what to do following a death.
Returning the remains of a loved one to Canada requires the assistance of qualified funeral homes both in Canada and in the country where the death occurred. You must confirm whether any travel health insurance purchased by the deceased will cover the preparation and repatriation of the remains to Canada or, alternatively, cremation or local burial.
The family of the deceased will need to make an early decision about whether it wishes the remains to be returned to Canada, buried or cremated in the other country. Please read the Canada Border Services Agency’s Importation and exportation of human remains and other human tissues, which explains the rules and processes for bringing remains to Canada.
The amount of time required to repatriate remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors, including the procedures in the country where the death occurred and the cause of death.
Funeral customs (and costs) may be very different from Canada’s in the country where the death occurred. Consular officers at a Canadian government office in the country where the remains are located can provide advice and guidance on the differences between local and Canadian funeral customs, particularly as they relate to embalming and preparation of remains for transportation.
Importing cremated remains into Canada
You do not need a copy of the death certificate to bring cremated human remains into Canada. However, it is recommended that the importer carry a copy of the death and cremation certificate and that the remains be in a container that can easily be scanned (e.g., cardboard, wood or plastic). Please read Canada Border Services Agency’s publication on Importation and exportation of human remains and other human tissues, which explains the rules and processes for bringing ashes to Canada.
Transporting cremated remains
If you choose to carry cremated remains on board an aircraft, you must notify the airline in advance to ensure you have the proper documentation. Not all airlines will transport cremated remains and some may only transport them as cargo. The funeral director may be able to provide you with a temporary container for transportation purposes. Containers made of cardboard, wood or plastic, are more likely to clear the x-ray machine at airport security and be permitted past the checkpoints. If the container is made of a dense material such as metal, stone or ceramic, screening officers may not be able to see its contents clearly and may reject it or request it be opened. In this case, you will be required to make alternate arrangements to ship it.
If you are planning to carry cremated remains on board an aircraft, please contact the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or call 1 800 O-Canada (available from around the world).
If a Canadian citizen dies abroad, officials at the nearest Canadian government office can:
- start the process of notifying next of kin, usually with the help of Canadian police
- provide guidance on how to obtain the appropriate documentation, including death certificates and police reports, where applicable. Official reports are released or obtained through formal channels at the discretion of local authorities and usually after written consent is provided by the next of kin
- authenticate a local death certificate that has been authenticated by the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs for insurance or repatriation purposes
- provide information on local internment options, costs and a list of local funeral service providers
- provide guidance on how to bring embalmed or cremated remains to Canada at the earliest possible time
- help to identify the remains of a Canadian citizen if local authorities, family members or friends are not able to do so
- provide a list of laboratory facilities offering forensic identification services (DNA, dental records, fingerprints)
- help to obtain the necessary documentation for insurance companies to facilitate the payment or investigation of claims
Please note that officials at the Canadian Government office abroad will not:
- pay for the burial, cremation or repatriation of the remains of a deceased Canadian citizen
- intervene in private legal matters relating to the death
- translate official documents such as death certificates or autopsy reports for the family
- provide legal advice on issues such as estate law, wills and trusts
- investigate the death of a Canadian or intervene in a local investigation of the death
The family or the deceased’s insurance company must pay all costs related to the repatriation of remains and personal belongings.
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