MONTREAL — A spat over a death certificate prompted a man to abruptly leave a Montreal-area hospital with the body of his deceased father earlier this week.
A spokeswoman for the Anna-Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay said Thursday the deceased arrived by ambulance from the nearby Kahnawake Mohawk territory on Tuesday.
The family were hoping to get a certificate before repatriating the body for a quick burial by the end of the day, as per the son's beliefs.
But the hospital explained the deceased would have to be admitted and that the body could not be released to anyone but an accredited funeral facility.
There are rules for conserving the body — for public health reasons as well as preserving the dignity of the person.Jade St-Jean
"For us, how it works is from the moment a body is admitted at the hospital, we have the responsibility, legally, to release it to an accredited funeral home," spokeswoman Jade St-Jean said.
"There are rules for conserving the body — for public health reasons as well as preserving the dignity of the person."
The family refused to have the father admitted and St-Jean said administrators were sensitive to the situation, with a team trying to find a solution that would respect the family's beliefs and the hospital's legal obligations.
"While we were doing that, someone left with the body so we called the authorities at that point," St-Jean said, adding no certificate was issued.
Son chronicled it online
The incident came to light after the deceased man's son chronicled the incident and its aftermath in a series of videos on his Facebook page and on YouTube.
In a first video, the man confirmed he was determined to bury his father before sundown Tuesday and didn't allow hospital officials to admit the body or touch it.
"The bureaucracy of Anna-Laberge is saying they are not going to release him if we send him in to get declared dead," the son said, adding a local funeral home declined to pick up the body if it was only to transport it.
In two subsequent videos, he confirmed leaving with the body in the back seat of a car and burying him as intended because he was adamant he did not want his father's body preserved in any way.
"This is the way that our people are supposed to go," he said. "They are not supposed to be planted in the ground with embalming fluid to poison the ground, the earth.
This is the way that our people are supposed to go.Son of deceased man
"A body can only be for one day. So when your loved one dies in the morning, they are to be buried by the end of the day."
He did not return a call seeking further comment.
Police are investigating
Police in Chateauguay, south of Montreal, confirmed they are investigating.
Spokeswoman Nathalie Langevin said they were called on Tuesday and have since been gathering information about what happened.
Langevin said police also spoke with the coroner's office and the Crown as part of the probe.
"We're trying to establish the facts and we have a lot of things to verify," she said.
St-Jean said the incident was a first for the hospital.
She said they would like to meet with Kahnawake community members to better understand practices and avoid similar incidents.
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