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N.S. funeral providers continue push for essential service designation, following mass killing, COVID-19 deaths

An essential service designation wouldn't change the number of people allowed to attend a funeral, but the Funeral Association of Nova Scotia says it could help create safer working conditions for providers.
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As Nova Scotians mourn those killed in the weekend shooting rampage and deal with lives lost to COVID-19, funeral providers continue to call on the provincial government to deem their services "essential."

The Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia says funeral and transfer services are often an overlooked part of public health, and in order for its members to continue operating with confidence, it's critical the profession receives the designation.

Patrick Curry is the association's acting president and says Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces in Canada to not officially reaffirm the industry's essential-services status. 

"We don't feel unsupported, but we would like the designation like our colleagues across the country just to know that if things become dire quickly, we will be able to do our jobs and help maintain public health," he says.

According to Curry, the designation could translate into exceptions to potential shelter-in-place orders, and ensure access to personal protective equipment. It could also allow providers to work alongside one another as necessary, and freely cross provincial borders for work purposes.

Whether the profession is deemed an essential service or not, funerals have to obey the province's rule limiting gatherings to five people. Those individuals must maintain a distance of at least six feet.

The province's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says Nova Scotia's pandemic response hasn't officially recognized any businesses or sectors as essential.

"But if necessary we will do that and funeral services are on that list," he said at Tuesday's news conference. 

Dr. Strang says it's important Nova Scotians mourn their losses, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn't create an environment for COVID-19 to further spread.

"Unfortunately we are having to ask people to mourn virtually, and we will find a time collectively when we are able to remember the events of Sunday in a way that can bring us more together physically," he says.

Curry says funeral homes are doing everything they can to help individuals grieve, especially in the communities directly impacted by the mass killing. 

"There is a really heavy weight in the province right now and we are all feeling it," he says. "We are all in this together."


Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and HalifaxToday.ca, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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