Guidance

Canada Bereavement Pack/Information

Information to assist those bereaved following the death of a British national in Canada.

Documents

Bereavement Guide for Canada

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Disclaimer

This information is not meant to be definitive, nor is it to be taken as a substitute for independent legal advice. Neither Her Majesty’s Government nor its staff take any responsibility for the accuracy of the information, nor accept liability for any loss, costs, damage or expense that you might suffer as a result of relying on the information. Some of the information may not be relevant to your circumstances. The language used is intended to be general and factual and is not meant to cause offence.

Updated January 2020

Introduction

When a relative or friend dies abroad, the different procedures, laws or language can cause additional distress. You may be uncertain about what to do or who to contact.

This country specific information is designed to help you through some of the practical arrangements you may need to make. It supplements the general information on death abroad produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which applies to all countries.

Please note, as each country has its own laws and customs when a death occurs, it may not be possible to make the arrangements that you prefer, or at the time you would like.

How to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

There is a lot of information below, but you may have questions. You can speak to someone by phone 24/7 any day of the year by contacting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on 0207 008 1500.

If you are not in the UK, you can find the contact details of the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate online.

The priority of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to provide assistance to British nationals overseas who need the most help. The level and type of assistance they can offer is tailored to the individual circumstances of each case.

Next of kin

The next of kin of the person who died will usually need to make decisions and practical arrangements. The next of kin can sometimes appoint another person to act on their behalf.

If you are not the next of kin, they will need to be informed. If required, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help you do this.

There is no legal definition of next of kin in the UK. Please note that if there is a disagreement over who is the next of kin, or the person who died did not choose a next of kin, this can cause additional complications.

When someone dies in Canada and the next of kin is in the UK or abroad, Canadian authorities normally notify the British Consulate in the area where the person has died. British Consulates will do whatever they can to trace the next of kin as soon as possible and would ask the UK police to pass on the sad news. However you might also be notified about the death directly by someone else, for example a doctor, a social worker or a police officer. In Canada the seniority of next of kin is usually as follows:

  • spouse / partner / same-sex partner / civil partner
  • adult child (i.e. over 18 years old)
  • parent
  • adult sibling (i.e. over 18 years old)
  • an adult with sufficient relationship to the deceased
  • an ex-partner is not regarded as next of kin

Release of information to next of kin

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office will try to obtain as much information as possible after your relative or friend has died abroad. Some of this may be only available to next of kin. Consular officers may be able to obtain this themselves, or they may put you in touch directly with the authorities overseas. They may be able to provide you with details of others who can advocate on your behalf such as lawyers, charities, or other organisations.

Insurance

It is very important to check if the person who died had insurance. If they had insurance, contact the insurance company as soon as possible. They may have a list of approved funeral directors to help you make arrangements, or be able to cover some of the costs.

If the person who died did not have insurance, the next of kin will usually have to appoint a funeral director and will usually be responsible for all costs. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot help with these costs.

Appointing a funeral director

If you decide to bring the deceased to the UK for the funeral or cremation, you may only need to appoint an international funeral director. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office produces a list of international funeral directors based in the UK.

If you decide to hold a funeral or cremation in Canada, you can find a list of funeral directors in Canada at http://www.canadianfunerals.com/index.html.

Registering the death and obtaining a death certificate

You will need to register the death with the local authorities in the country where the person died. Sometimes a funeral director can do this for you. You will usually need documents about you and the person who has died, which include information such as full name, date of birth and passport number.

The local authorities will need to be told if the person suffered from an infectious condition such as hepatitis or HIV so they can take precautions against infection.

You do not need to register the death with the UK authorities. The local death certificate can usually be used in the UK for most purposes, including probate. If it is not in English, you will need to obtain and pay for an official translation.

Post-mortem examinations (autopsies)

An autopsy is a thorough medical examination of a body after death. It may be done to learn about a disease or injury. Or it may be done to find out how or why a person has died.

An autopsy is done by a doctor called a pathologist. This type of doctor is an expert in examining body tissues and fluids.

Family members may ask for an autopsy to be done after a loved one has died. This is called a requested autopsy. Sometimes an autopsy is required by law. This is called a required autopsy.

An autopsy may be required by law in deaths that may have medical and legal issues. They include deaths that:

  • Are unexpected. This may include the sudden death of a healthy child or adult. Or it may be the death of a person who was not under the care of a doctor.
  • Are a result of any injury, for example including a fall, a car crash, a dru overdose or poisoning.
  • Are suspicious, such as suicide or murder.
  • Have happened under other conditions defined by law.

  • May help health experts find and track a disease or possible public health hazard. (For example, they might look for signs of a contagious disease or one spread through food or water).

If an autopsy is required by law, the coroner or medical examiner can legally have it done without the consent of the person’s family (next of kin).

During a post-mortem, small tissue samples and organs may be removed and retained for testing, including toxicological studies. This is done in order to better understand the cause of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that might be present. It can be crucial to establish cause of death in cases where criminal or civil legal procedures may apply.

In some cases it may be necessary to have a further autopsy in the UK even though one has been carried out overseas and, when repatriation is to England or Wales, it is probable that the Coroner will wish to hold an inquest.

Mortuary facilities

Canadian mortuary facilities are of a high standard and similar to that in the UK. Mortuaries are usually attached to local hospitals in Canada.

Burial, cremation, repatriation

The next of kin of the person who has died will usually need to decide between a local burial, cremation or bringing the person home, which is known as repatriation. Your funeral director will usually be able to explain the options available, the costs, and help you make arrangements.

If you choose a local burial, you will need to instruct a local funeral director and they can make the necessary arrangements with either a private of government owned cemetery. A ceremony can be organised by the funeral director or a registered celebrant. You can make specific arrangements depending on your cultural and/or religious beliefs.

If you are thinking of arranging a local cremation, please take advice from your local funeral director.

In Canada, there are different ways to register for organ donation depending on where someone lived and what was decided they wanted to donate. There is further information below that covers all of the provinces and territories across Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/healthy-living/blood-organ-tissue-donation.html

Please note if a local burial or cremation takes place, then an inquest in the UK will not be possible. For more information on inquests, see the information on UK coroners and inquests below.

Return of personal belongings

Personal belongings found on the deceased at the time of death are either handed over to the family, if they are present, or taken by the police. If the next of kin chooses repatriation, it is advisable to instruct the local undertaker to collect the belongings from the police and to ship personal belongings together with the body. If there is an investigation into the death, the deceased’s clothing can be retained as evidence and is not returned until the court case is finished.

Please note, the British High Commission or Consulate cannot take responsibility for the personal belongings of the person who died.

Steps to take in the UK

You can find more information on the steps to take in the UK online. This includes information on arranging the funeral, telling the government about the death, UK pensions and benefits, and dealing with the estate of the person who died. There is a step-by-step guide on gov.uk.

British passport cancellation

In order to avoid identity fraud, the passport of the person who died should be cancelled with Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO). To do this, you will need to complete a “D1 form”.

The form and instructions on where to send it is available online.

If you plan to repatriate the person who died to the UK, you may require their passport to do this. In these circumstances, you should cancel the passport after they have been repatriated.

Deaths in road traffic accidents

Police in the relevant jurisdiction will investigate a suspicious death or a road traffic accident; when the investigation is complete, a report citing a suspected culprit(s) is passed to the Prosecutor. The victim’s family is entitled to a copy of the report and to comment.

The Prosecutor will then decide whether further enquiries are necessary, or whether to submit the case to the Court for trial. This can be a lengthy process, often subject to delay. Even after the Court has reached a verdict an appeal can be submitted to the Superior court of justice. Each Province operates its own legal aid and criminal compensation scheme – see below.

Deaths investigated as murder or manslaughter

If the local police have confirmed that they are investigating the death as a murder or manslaughter a dedicated team within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be available to provide support, including by referring you to a specialised organisation. You can find more about what they can do online.

You should note that if the deceased is repatriated to parts of the UK a coroner or procurator fiscal may decide to hold an inquest. See the section on UK Coroners and inquests, below.

UK coroners and inquests

If you repatriate the person who died to England and Wales there may be an inquest. The decision on when to hold an inquest is made by Her Majesty’s Coroner. Please note, an inquest will usually only happens in certain situations, for example, when someone has died in suspicious, unnatural, and violent circumstances or whilst in detention. If the person who died is cremated and only their ashes are brought home, there will not be an inquest.

If you repatriate the person who died to Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal may decide to call for a Fatal Accidents or Injuries Inquiry.

If you repatriate the person who died to Northern Ireland, there will be no coronial inquest or further inquiry.

Please note, Procurators Fiscal and Coroners do not have jurisdiction in another country, nor do they seek to apportion blame to a named individual.

You can find more information on Coroners and the Procurator Fiscal in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide on Death Abroad.

Legal Aid is a Canadian legal service dealing mainly with family law and criminal legal matters. They may be able to provide free legal advice as well as court representation, and grants of legal aid funds to pay for a legal aid lawyer or a private solicitor. This is not automatic however and there is qualifying criteria.

For further information on this, or how to find a lawyer if you need one, see our List of Lawyers.

Compensation

The Canadian government provide victim support which may include compensation (if applicable). These are:

You can find information on UK compensation for victims of terrorism overseas online.

Additional support

Local support organisations

There are many counselling services in Canada that can provide support for those experiencing grief and loss. You can find further support at:

BC Bereavement Helpline

Alberta Grief Support Program

Grief Share

Crisis support/ Suicide prevention

Support organisations in the UK

In the UK, there are many organisations that can help bereaved families. Some of these are listed in the guide coping with death abroad.

We also have information for victims of crime abroad, which you may find helpful.

Published 2 July 2015
Last updated 13 February 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated Bereavement Pack/Information

  2. Updated information on consular death registration procedure in Canada.

  3. First published.