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Evidence of meeting #30 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was family.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tony Pollard  President, Hotel Association of Canada
Scott MacLeod  President, Funeral Service Association of Canada
Brian McGarry  Funeral Service Association of Canada
Allan Cole  Mortuary Affairs Contractor for Deployed Department of National Defence and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, As an Individual
Don Head  Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Richard Haycock  General Manager, International Association of Venue Managers
Sue Lasher  Vice-President, Funeral Service Association of Canada

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

I gave you an extra 30 seconds, and that's a wrap.

Mr. Calandra.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses.

Mr. Cole, you mentioned something interesting with respect to folding of the flag and the type of material that should be used. It might seem like a very small point, but also something that could cause a great deal of embarrassment in a community or in a place where they may not have that knowledge.

Just as an aside, I received a letter from a gentleman in Vaudreuil, Quebec. He had researched the protocol for destroying a Canadian flag. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but apparently the protocol calls for burning the Canadian flag in order to destroy it. But of course, with the new materials that most of the flags are made of, that's probably not a very good idea. It's an example of protocol maybe needing to be updated.

More specifically, Mr. Cole, are there other little things like that? I know you probably don't like to talk about repatriation; it's not an easy thing to talk about. Are there other little things that you've come across that if we wrote down and supplied to other people, we would avoid embarrassment at very significant ceremonies, be they for fallen firefighters or police officers across this country, and it's as simple as writing it down?

Noon

Mortuary Affairs Contractor for Deployed Department of National Defence and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, As an Individual

Allan Cole

Absolutely. I've had a variety of circumstances. I won't relate the specifics of most, but I've had a flag blow off a casket during a ceremony where a great deal of respect and reverence was paid to placing the casket on the grave. Everyone was gathered, as they were to have been. The bearer party was in the process of beginning to undress the casket and remove the flag, and a wind came by and blew the flag away. We thought afterwards about a variety of things we could and should have done to avoid that. But it's exactly that, the lessons learned, if conveyed appropriately, would avoid that sort of circumstance.

As Canadians like to follow the letter of the law and they like to do what is written on the piece of paper, I can tell you there have been a variety of circumstances when we've gone ahead. We've had a cremation of the remains, taken the cremated remains in an urn, and then placed it back into a full-size casket so that we could follow protocol in terms of this being how one appropriately addresses the funeral service for someone in uniform. We had reduced the remains of the individual down to that size, yet they were carried on their shoulders in a box that was half the size of this table.

So there is a variety of things, and we would be delighted, as a profession, to share with you some of the key elements that we think could help you avoid the pitfalls of any embarrassment that would befall that sort of circumstance.

Noon

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Head, you talked about your members. Your members work very long hours in very difficult circumstances and situations. Why would they volunteer their time to do this?

Noon

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

I think it's truly a reflection of what the staff believe in. They believe in service to their country. They believe in service to their community and really want to show that. Showing up at some of these very important ceremonies in a ceremonial uniform is part of their way of showing respect to their colleagues, and to their colleagues who have fallen. It's something that's really personal for them.

I think anybody you find who wears any kind of uniform is of that same mindset. They wear a uniform because they're providing some service to somebody. In this case, they provide public safety services to Canadians. They feel proud of that. They feel proud of showing the fact that they are part of that kind of organization. And they feel the need to show, as I say, respect for colleagues, particularly colleagues who have fallen in the line of duty.

Noon

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

One of the underlying principles or motivations for protocol and getting it right is that it's an ultimate show of respect for your country. It's a way of unifying your country, and it's a show of respect for somebody who has sacrificed, in a lot of instances, for their country.

To get it wrong or to not talk about it could ultimately be the ultimate sign of disrespect, when you have the ability to actually get it right. Would you agree with that?

Noon

Mortuary Affairs Contractor for Deployed Department of National Defence and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, As an Individual

Allan Cole

I do completely.

Noon

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Officers fall not just in big communities in large venues. When an officer is killed in the line of duty in a small town, it puts a huge strain on.... Often they go to a hockey arena to do it. The timeframes are very short. I would assume that they would have absolutely no ability within the very short timeframe to ensure that they're getting it right, because of all the stresses they're being put under.

You said an event planning and security template would be something we should perhaps be working towards. Are there examples we could take from, for example, the United States with respect to security planning, to use as a template to help start our own studies here? How do we help these smaller venues? Canada for the most part is made up of small communities. Outside of the large cities, most of these events are going to take place in very small communities. I guess the same would go for the hotel question. How can we start bringing this together quickly?

12:05 p.m.

General Manager, International Association of Venue Managers

Richard Haycock

Mr. Chairman, I think the observation is right on point. One of the reasons we have a relatively small number of Canadian members in our association is that so many of the subject venues are in small communities with modest budgets and modest means. They're not able to participate in the same way.

I don't want to overstate the quantum of it, but having a national template, if you will, a Canadian resource these folks can go to, in my opinion, would be of tremendous value to them. Under those types of circumstances, there's already a tremendous amount of stress.

I know that here in Ottawa not too long ago, when we honoured Constable Eric Czapnik, the service was held in our venue. It was one of the most amazing events, in over 30 years in the industry, I've ever participated in. That all came together in a span of 9 or 10 days. It was truly amazing.

It takes, as I'm sure other members of the panel could recognize, a tremendous amount of effort.

Again, it's not likely to be a one-size-fits-all kind of solution, but here are the key things. In a smaller local area you're not likely to be faced with the same levels of security concerns you may have here in the nation's capital, for instance. Some of the key things are to have something that is perhaps scalable and something that provides the basics and at least gives them an opportunity to get started. Often, they simply don't know where to begin.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Now we're into our five-minute rounds.

Mr. Cash.

May 10th, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for being here.

I'm just curious, Mr. Haycock. How many Canadian members do you have?

12:05 p.m.

General Manager, International Association of Venue Managers

Richard Haycock

We have approximately 150 currently.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

This is an international organization, so how many American members do you have?

12:05 p.m.

General Manager, International Association of Venue Managers

Richard Haycock

We have almost 3,000.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Just to refer back to a question from Mr. Calandra, I think part of the question is whether we are borrowing some traditions from the United States. I've often heard the other side asking whether we should be developing our own, so it's interesting that the member would ask for some guidance from American protocol and systems.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

A point of order, Mr. Chair.

I think it's important to clarify that it was specific to event planning and security, not to Canadian traditions for protocols. There's a touch of misrepresentation by the member about what I asked the witness.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Carry on, Mr. Cash.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

I wanted to ask Mr. Cole something.

In general, what I'm hearing here is that protocol is important and complex. We have some experts in funeral procedure here, and we all know that one of the most delicate moments in people's lives is when they are at funerals for their loved ones. It's a very vulnerable time. You and your colleagues execute your duties exceptionally well. I've been to many funerals—alas—and I've noticed a high level of professionalism. You've established this protocol of professionalism based on what? How have you gotten to this place of delicate diplomacy?

12:10 p.m.

President, Funeral Service Association of Canada

Scott MacLeod

Mr. Chairman, funeral service has evolved, obviously, to where it is today. Generations before us started with building furniture. A lot of funeral homes were initiated through a need for a casket, so a casket was designed. I won't go back through all the history, but slowly there was an evolution towards a service, and someone in the community needed to provide that, so the furniture builder became the go-to person.

In more recent history, though, funeral service has been evolving more and more away from faith and churches. I know in our own funeral home, about 70% of our services are done from our chapel. The main reason is that there is no church connection for a family. That situation is increasing. And with cremation services and direct cremation services, that's all changing too. In the last 10 years there's been a big shift in funeral service, and that is continuing into the future, and that's directed primarily from and around the funeral home.

I've been to many funerals myself, outside of my facility, conducted by other funeral homes. I'm very interested in how something has become a custom in an area, when I don't have it in my area, so there are very unique ways that things happen. A prime example is that for many years we would rest in family homes in a rural community and we would go directly to the church. One family decided they would like to have the minister come to the home and have a prayer at the home. From then on, that became the custom. So there are multiple ways in which things happen.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

In other words, protocol or customs are living things, in a way. They are evolving constantly as we evolve. You can trace, on many levels, the vast changes in Canadian culture and society by how we honour those who are deceased, I would think.

So if we fix this stuff and make a hard core rule that says, “This is how we do this, this is how we do that”, are we boxing ourselves in? Do we need the flexibility if we're talking about some protocols here? How important is that? Are we talking about a guidebook, or a framework, or some place where we can go on the web to find out how to do certain things, or are we talking about getting down to the nitty-gritty of each particular step?

12:10 p.m.

President, Funeral Service Association of Canada

Scott MacLeod

I really believe that we need a template—I might call it that—or a guideline. The challenge for families is, what's appropriate and what's the right thing to do here? I hear that a lot in the funeral service.

Even though they have their own idea or, as I mentioned before, they might have a certain custom that dad or grampy always wanted, they still want to do the right thing, and they want it to represent their loved one well in the community. At services, they want to be proud of the event. They want to be proud of that moment in time for their loved one.

We give a lot of direction as funeral directors. That's what we do when people ask if this is okay or if that is okay, or if they can do this or do that. So anywhere they can go to outside of us and be able to say that here's a template for a state funeral.... That would be I think very important. But again, make it so that it's adaptable.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

That will have to be it, Mr. Cash.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Calandra, you're going to split your time.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

To start off, Mr. Haycock, your members understand that there's a difference between security and planning and the respect we show—the Canadian traditions we show—when we're burying a recognized fallen hero.