Toronto councillor and faith leaders to create waterfront space for spreading funeral ashes

A Toronto councillor is working with faith leaders to create a framework for scattering the ashes of a loved one after their death.

For some faiths, including Hinduism, the scattering of ashes in fresh water is an important ritual.

Sushital Choudhury, founder of Toronto Durgabari temple says, "If the ashes go to the fresh water, we believe that the soul will be rest in peace.”

Choudhury says that members of his congregation have previously shipped ashes to India to be spread in the Ganges river. He does not see the need, saying, "Why I am going to India? For this? I live here, I serve here, my ashes should be here."

He would prefer that they be able to scatter ashes in Lake Ontario, and for that reason, Toronto councillor Gary Crawford is working with Choudhury. 

Crawford says his plan, "is for the city to look at designating certain area in the city to allow these kinds of services, recognizing the cultural sensitivity.”

Currently in Ontario, scattering of ashes is legal on Crown Land, including land covered by water, if there are no signs prohibiting. On Municipally owned lands, subject to bylaws. Also, private property with permission of the owner. 

Crawford says there have been cases over the years when the scattering of ashes in a place like Bluffers Park has created conflict with others inside the park. He says, while the ashes themselves don't create a problem, often there are items left in the water, like plastic flowers creating an environmental impact. 

"Ideally you would want to have that taken back and deal with the environmental concerns but that doesn't necessarily always happen," he says. 

Choudhury says those from his temple have not been scattering in Lake Ontario, because he wants to create a proper framework with the city. 

Crawford says at this time, they have not chosen an exact location. He is currently working with city staff to create a proposal, with the hopes of putting forward a motion to council.