(The first part of what follows appeared in the June 1991 issue of CRYONICS magazine. The law is now Section 14 of Bill 3, passed 2004 http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/37th5th/1st_read/gov03-1.htm#section014)
British Columbia is the only legal jurisdiction known to cryonicists to have a law against cryonics. The Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, Bill 42, became law in British Columbia in April 1990. Under the heading "Arrangements Forbidden" is Part 5, Section 57: "No person shall offer for sale or sell any arrangement for the preservation or storage of human remains based on cryonics, irradiation or any other means of preservation or storage, by whatever name called, that is offered or sold on the expectation of the resuscitation of human remains at a future time."
(I challenge anyone to show an example of someone claiming "irradiation" as a means of storage for the "expectation of future resuscitation". This was undoubtedly the concept of a hostile bureaucrat who wanted to discredit cryonics by associating it with something that is patently ludicrous.)
The Act was 14 years in the making. In large part it was based on the Gosse Royal Commission of 1976, a study conducted by a former law professor named Richard Gosse. The commission report and various drafts of the Act had evidently been reviewed by representatives from six sections of British Columbian society: (1) the Cemeteries Association (2) Old Age Pensioners (3) the Association of Churches (4) the Funeral Directors' Association (5) the Consumers' Association of Canada and (6) the Memorial Society. But there is nothing in the Grosse Commission study making reference to cryonics. By his own report (in a telephone conversation) Section 57 was written by a bureaucrat named David Oliver, formerly a Senior Research Officer of the Ministry of Labour and Consumer Services, and more recently an Industrial Relations Officer for Employer Standards [(604) 356-9031]. Although he has expressed hostility to the idea of cryonics in conversation, Mr. Oliver denies individual responsibility for the law, saying he merely recorded the consensus of a committee.
In 1991, in an attempt to find out how this law came to be, I phoned the British Columbia Funeral Association. I was told to phone a Mr. Paul Snikars (pronounced sni kars [i as in pin, a as in far]), the Registrar for the Cemeteries and Funeral Services Branch of the Ministry of Labour and Consumer Services of the Province of British Columbia. I called Mr. Snikars [(604) 387-9114] and identified myself as a Director of the Cryonics Society of Canada, and told him I was phoning from Toronto. I said that I had recently learned that cryonics had become illegal in British Columbia last Spring and that I wanted to know what kind of thinking was behind this illegality. This question made him fairly uptight and he made reference to the many representatives from various sections of society (mentioning church groups repeatedly) that had been consulted. When I pressed for information about what scientists had been consulted, he became extremely evasive, defensive and upset. He told me he "didn't have time" for this and that if I had any questions or complaints, that I should submit them in writing.
I could feel that he was close to hanging-up on me and I knew that this was a situation requiring extreme delicacy and tact if I was to gain co-operation. I tried to gently assure him that it was not my intention to blame him. I told him that it is an issue about which I have strong feelings because I feel my life is at stake, but the fact that there are currently less than 5 people to my knowledge in BC with an interest in cryonics does not make it a groundswell mass-movement kind of issue. He apologized somewhat, but said that the accusative way I had begun the conversation had raised his hackles. He was particularly sick, he said, of people phoning him from Toronto, telling him how things should be run in British Columbia.
Since Mr. Snikars is the person primarily responsible for enforcing the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, I tried to explore how he would interpret Section 57. At first he said that if a British Columbian made an arrangement with a cryonics organization outside of the Province, there would be no problem with B.C. Law. However, when I pressed him on the point of a B.C. funeral director packing a person in dry ice for shipment, he began to see that this would be an example of "selling any arrangement for the preservation or storage of human remains" -- prohibited by the Act. Still trying to be agreeable, he suggested that the person could be shipped-out of the Province first, and then frozen. I explained to him the damage done by autolysis, particularly after the first hour postmortem, at room temperature. When I asked him what he knew about cryonics, he acknowledged that it wasn't very much. I asked if he would like to receive some literature on the subject and he agreed that it would probably be good to have such information in his files.
Mr. Snikars emphasized that, although he enforces the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, he had little to do with creating it. He could, however, make recommendations which would be taken seriously in future modifications of the Act. He said that Bruce McCullen, Director of Policy and Planning had been more involved in the creation of the Act. Mr. Snikars agreed that I could phone him in the future, and did not seem in a bad frame of mind at the end of our conversation.
It was very clear to me that -- as angry as I felt -- it would be counterproductive to vent that anger on government functionaries. When I phoned Bruce McCullen [(604) 387-1754], it was with the intention of (1) finding-out who was responsible for the law (2) finding-out what the appeal process is and (3) refraining from expressing any bitterness which might alienate his co-operation.
As it turned-out, Bruce McCullen could not tell me who was responsible for Section 57 of the Act. The Act was evidently 14 years in the making. In large part it was based on the Gosse Royal Commission of 1976, a study conducted by a former law professor named Richard Gosse. The commission report and various drafts of the Act had evidently been reviewed by representatives from six sections of British Columbian society: (1) the Cemeteries Association (2) Old Age Pensioners (3) the Association of Churches (4) the Funeral Directors' Association (5) the Consumers' Association of Canada and (6) the Memorial Society. I got the impression that somewhere along the line someone had been motivated to add Section 57 and that probably no one else had enough knowledge or feeling about cryonics to raise an objection.
Mr. McCullen seemed even more eager than Mr. Snikars to say that a person making arrangements with a cryonics organization outside of British Columbia would have no problem -- although I once again mentioned the problems. Mr. McCullen said that the prohibition against advertising for sale would not apply to an advertisement for cryonics services appearing in a national magazine. He said that requests to change a statute are reviewed yearly -- but that the volume of such requests means that requests of greatest urgency are given highest priority (adding that requests from non-residents of British Columbia will count for far less than requests from British Columbians). The request to change a statute should be in the form of a letter directed to the Minister of Labour and Consumer Affairs.
Although I was not argumentative with Mr. McCullen, I did express concern with how easily in a nominally free society a nonviolent act can be declared criminal. After I suggested that the law might have been an attempt to prevent fraud, I acknowledged that cryonics is an unproven scientific procedure. He suggested that this unproven nature may have been the grounds for prohibition. I'm certainly glad there weren't more government functionaries around when the Wright Brothers were attempting to fly.
I asked Douglas Skrecky, who lives in Vancouver, B.C. if he would try to find-out anything he could about the Gosse report. Douglas sent me a letter in which he said: "I have read the report prepared for the Minister of Consumer Services in 1976 by Richard Gosse and found no mention of either cryonics or irradiation in it."
In attempting to determine the means by which legislation can be changed, I phoned the Policy and Legislation Branch of the Ministry of Labour and Consumer Services [(604) 387-1791]. I was told that the procedure is to write a letter to James Rabbitt and further told that Robert Herchak is the Policy Specialist responsible for writing changes to the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act. Mr. Herchak's telephone was busy, so I phoned the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Consumer Services and Administration [(604) 387-3129]. I was again told to write James Rabbitt and somehow referred to David Oliver, a Senior Research Officer.
I phoned David Oliver who told me that he is not presently in the department associated with the area of my concern. He did, however, say that he knew of Section 57 and had, by chance, been one of the team responsible. He said he was not at liberty to divulge the identity of other members of the team and that it would be of no help to know who the individuals were. He almost went so far as to admit writing the Section by saying something about putting "ideas into words", but he quickly backpedaled by saying that he was merely a "lowly bureaucrat" and that no individual is responsible for the legislation -- the Ministry as a whole is responsible.
I explained that with no one taking responsibility for the legislation, I find it extremely difficult to identify the relevant issues. I said I was not compiling a "hit list" (he laughed). I said that by identifying the person or persons responsible there would exist a possibility of engaging in a meaningful dialogue on the subject and of isolating the critical issues. He said that individuals come-and-go and that individuals are not important. Although Mr. Oliver would not directly take responsibility, I found that it was not difficult to induce him into arguing at length in defense of Section 57.
Mr. Oliver said that no one has yet been successful in storing a body in such a way as to be revived and that the legislation is designed to prevent people from being misled. In discussing a possible letter I could write to Mr. Rabbitt, he allowed that I could argue that with proper "disclosure mechanisms" in a cryonics contract there could be no possible harm. He said that I should also quote the "offending clause" and repeat what I had told him about British Columbia being the only jurisdiction in the world in which cryonics is illegal (Mr. Oliver seemed to doubt my word about this latter claim, but had no basis to dispute it).
Mr. Oliver said that the law did not forbid British Columbians from buying cryonics arrangements outside of the Province. He said that another Section of the Act provides that when someone makes a request for disposition of remains in a will, the executor of the will is bound to follow that request -- which could include packing in ice and shipment to California. When I mentioned the fact that a funeral director would be violating Section 57 by packing someone in ice for shipment in exchange for monetary compensation, Mr. Oliver said it would all depend on how the Registrar for Cemeteries chose to interpret the Act.
When I returned the discussion to the subject of the basis of Section 57, Mr. Oliver opined that cryonics is a futile exercise because even if a dead person is thawed, all you get is a thawed dead person. I attempted to lead him through the argument concerning changing definitions of death, but he refused to accept the idea of the distinction between legal and actual death -- or that death is a continuous rather than a discrete process. When I mentioned the fact that University of Pittsburgh animal experiments had shown that brain blood vessel spasm preceded the beginning of nerve degeneration by 30-45 minutes, he said that animal experiments are not relevant because animals can hibernate. When I said that cats do not hibernate, he said that he had personal experience with his cat having a near-death experience and losing sight due to brain degeneration.
Mr. Oliver expressed the opinion that if he talked to 100 doctors in British Columbia, he doubted that as many as 1 or 2 would say that science is anywhere close to reviving a frozen dead person. I said that future science will have capabilities that present science does not have. When I mentioned the idea of the Wright Brothers being forbidden to fly, he said that flying is a different matter since anyone can observe that birds fly. He also said that the legislation does not forbid research, and that if new discoveries are made, the legislation can be changed.
I suggested that a person who dies of AIDS now will not be able to benefit from future discoveries if he is not frozen now. Mr. Oliver raised the issue of overpopulation and expressed the opinion that it would be a mistake for society to allow people to "indulge in a large scale in preserving themselves". I asked him if in raising this issue he was acknowledging that cryonics might work or that concern with overpopulation was a factor in framing Section 57. He denied both, but the fact that he expressed this opinion indicates to me that he would adamantly oppose cryonics whether or not it was proved to work.
I asked Mr. Oliver if he was saying that a person who dies of AIDS has less of a right to life than other people. He said that "a right is only a right, not a future possibility" (?) and that rights are conferred by society. I then asked him if he thought it was proper for society to not confer a right to further life to an AIDS victim. I can't remember his answer, but I think he returned to the proposition that cryonics is unworkable.
Somewhere amidst all that discussion, I also expressed the opinion that a person has the right to commit suicide. He immediately leapt upon this idea by saying that to induce a person to be frozen before death with the claim of future revival is not only fraudulent, but murderous. I did not attempt to engage him in further discussion on this point.
I ended my conversation with Mr. Oliver by thanking him for providing me with so much insight into the thinking behind Section 57. I think I had succeeded in arguing the basic issues with him without provoking real hostility.
Later in the day, I phoned the Policy Specialist, Robert Herchak [(604) 387-3390], who had been spoken-to by Mr. Oliver about my earlier phone call. Mr. Herchak was very friendly, helpful and agreeable, but he made it clear that he would not argue the merits of any proposal for legal amendment -- that such proposals must be submitted in writing. Mr. Herchak told me that the Cabinet priorizes legislation it wants to deal with two times per year. Issues regarded as unimportant can be put on-hold for several years.
Mr. Herchak told me that the sequence of events for requesting amendments to the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act would begin with my sending a proposal to Minister of Consumer Services, who would forward the proposal either to the Registrar or (more likely) to Mr. Herchak for research. Mr. Herchak's concerns would be, what policy is best for protecting consumer interests and how can industry conflicts be minimized. In addressing the latter question, he said that he would seek feedback from industry representatives. When I asked him about cryonics representation, he said that cryonicists could only get industry representation if there were cryonicists who belonged to the British Columbia Funeral Association and were active in the Association. He said he would also consult with the Registrar, Paul Snikars. And Mr. Herchak said that if the proposal to amend Section 57 mentioned that there is no precedent in law elsewhere, authorities in other Canadian Provinces may be contacted for discussion and consultation.
Mr. Herchak asked where I was calling-from, and I acknowledged that I was calling from Toronto and that the Cryonics Society of Canada is Toronto-based. I told him, however, that I had moved to Toronto from British Columbia 3 years previous and that I knew of a number of people interested in cryonics who live or travel in British Columbia. I then thanked him for his help, and ended the phone call.
It seems quite possible to me that Section 57 could
simply be an example of one "lowly bureaucrat" managing to foist his
views into the laws governing a Province of three million people. One
person with a strong opinion who is crucially-placed could well
implement those opinions if all others are ignorant and/or indifferent
to the issues involved.
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In the Fall of 1992 a request for amendments to the Cemetery and Funeral Services Actsuch a request was made by the Directors of the Cryonics Society of Canada. The request was denied, and a letter explaining the denial was sent to the Cryonics Society of Canada from Labour and Consumer Services Minister Moe Sihota. Mr. Sihota denied that the practice of cryonics is illegal in British Columbia, but affirmed that "commercial transactions concerning cryonics are prohibited because the technologies involved in cryonics are as yet unproven."
Further appeals for Section 57 to be reviewed were flatly rejected by the Minister of Consumer Services, Joan Smallwood, and by her predecessor, Moe Sihota. In rationalizing the law, British Columbia bureaucrats invariably state that they are protecting B.C. consumers from an unproven procedure. A letter from Joan Smallwood stressed that this is particularly important because "the death of a family member or friend may be a time of emotional turmoil."
Alcor Director Keith Henson says that he was invited to give a lecture on cryonics at a science fiction convention in British Columbia. He wrote to the RCMP asking if he would be violating the laws of BC by accepting the invitation. The RCMP advised him against giving the lecture.
Keith should have written to Mr. Paul Snikars, the Registrar of the Cemeteries and Funeral Services Branch. It is Mr. Snikars who is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Act. I have asked Mr. Snikars whether in an emergency cryonicists living or traveling in British Columbia could legally obtain the services of medical personnel, funeral directors or common carriers. He told me he didn't think it would be a problem, but he refuses to put this in writing (which could make it difficult to get co-operative help).
Early in 1994 Mr. Snikars told me that he was becoming irritated by Section 57 because at least once a month someone would phone him asking about it. He said that enough correspondence had been generated that he would recommend a review. A Consultation Group had been formed to review the Act with an eye towards requiring that funeral directors be licensed. I instigated a letter-writing campaign, but in August the Consultation Group refused to reconsider Section 57.
In May 1996 the Socialist NDP Government was re-elected for another 4 years in British Columbia. The NDP Ministers who have been in power for the past 4 or 5 years have been arrogant & dismissive of any request to re-consider Section 57. NDP Minister Joan Smallwood's hostility and contempt went beyond that of any of her predecessors, although she received more mail on the subject, and she eventually became more "political".
Section 57 was written-by and supported-by professional bureaucrats at the time the Socreds were in power, and these same bureaucrats have continued their bureaucratic lives in the NDP years. These bureaucrats are the ones responsible for the legislation, not the NDP or the Socreds (apart from the fact that neither the NDP nor the Socreds would consider an appeal).
If there is anything positive about the fact that the NDP will remain in power it is that the Minister responsible has told Douglas Skrecky that if the Funeral Services Act is reviewed, Douglas would be consulted. The Minister also made it clear that no review is foreseen, so this may just be a cheap promise.
Whether or not it was a cheap promise, in 2004 Bill 03 reclassified
the anti-cryonics law as Section 14 of the new legislation and
therer was no knowledge or input from cryonicists concerning this bill. If there
was a time for lobbying and appeal, that would have been the time.
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We may not be able to exert political pressure, but we may at least may be able to achieve some "water-torture". The Funeral Services Registrar, Paul Snikars, once told me how irritating it is for him to have someone phone him at least once a month about Section 57.
The Minister of Housing, Recreation Tayt Winnitoy, Registrar and Consumer Services Cemeteries and Funeral Parliament Buildings Services Branch Victoria, British Columbia 1019 Wharf Street V8V 1X4 CANADA Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1X4 CANADA
Tell them that forbidding a potentially life-saving procedure does not protect B.C. citizens. Tell them that family members are likely to be even more upset if technology for resuscitation of those currently frozen is devised, and B.C. law had prevented their survival.
I also recommend phoning Mr. Paul Snikars [(604) 387-9114] (or FAX (604) 953-3533) asking him to justify Section 57, and asking him to give a specific directive that medical personnel, funeral directors and common carriers can assist in a cryonics emergency without fear of prosecution. Tell him that medical personnel, funeral personnel and common carriers should be given permission to assist in cryonics cases without fear of prosecution.
Computer-literate persons living outside British Columbia may also be able to lobby in another way. There is a USENET group called BC.POLITICS, and a number of cryonicists (notably John de Rivaz and Brian Wowk) have already lobbied in this forum against Section 57, attracting the interest and attention of British Columbia residents. I would encourage that this practice be continued.
In my experience in dealing with bureaucrats, I have found them to be incredibly hide-bound in their interpretation and support of existing law, but remarkably open to input concerning legislation in the process of formulation. My most ardent advice to cryonicists, therefore, is to remain aware of funeral legislation being revised in your jurisdictions -- and to be in touch with those who are making revisions. When it comes to anti-cryonics laws, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
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The following correspondence from British Columbia politicians and bureaucrats serves to document somewhat the variation in interpretation that comes from those responsible for a law they did not create. As mentioned, Paul Snikars (the Registrar at the time the legislation was originally implemented) made reassuring statements about BC citizens not being prohibited from contracting with cryonics organizations outside of BC, but refused to put anything into writing.
Minister Moe Sihota to Douglas Quinn, November 1992
In this letter Minister Sihota states that cryonics is not illegal in BC and that BC law does not ban the practice of cryonics, but commercial transactions concerning cryonics are prohibited.
Minister Joan Smallwood to Douglas Skrecky, October 1994
Minister Smallwood states that preservation and resuscitation of human remains is not prevented, but technology for resuscitation does not presently exist. Therefore the law prevents the offering of resuscitation insofar as it could be "possible exploitation of individuals at a vulnerable time of their lives." She states that the legislation could be reviewed at a future date if technology changes and that the law does not prevent research.
Minister Joan Smallwood to Yvan Bozzonetti, November 1994
Minister Smallwood states that BC legislation does not prohibit the practice of cryonics for the purpose of medical research, but only "prohibits the freezing of bodies on the expectation that they will be revived." She says the law protects consumers against promotional marketing of an unproven technology.
Solicitor General Coleman to Olaf Henry ("Henny" [sic]), September 2002
Solicitor General Coleman states that funeral providers are prohibited from offering cryonics arrangements on the expectation of future revival, but that cryonics businesses are not prohibited from operating and consumers are not prohibited from accessing cryonics services. Although a BC funeral director cannot sell cryonics arrangements, a BC funeral director is not prohibited from preparation and transport for cryonics purposes (to an organization outside of BC, presumably). This letter was copied to Tayt Winnitoy, the Registrar of Cemetery and Funeral Services.
Registrar Tayt Winnitoy to Andy Zawacki, July 2005
Registrar Winnitoy confirmed to Cryonics Institute Facilities Manager Andy Zawacki that a BC funeral director is not prohibited from performing preparation and transport services related to a cryonics arrangement.
In 2004 BC Funeral legislation was re-written, more of a change in
form than of substance. Section 57 became Section 14 in the
new legislation. As currently written,
Section 14 of Bill 3 (2004) states:
14 A person must not offer for sale, or sell, an arrangement for
preservation or storage of human remains that is based on
Prohibition on sales, and offers of sale, of arrangements relating to cryonics and irradiation
(b) irradiation, or
(c) any other means of preservation or storage, by whatever name called, and that is offered, or sold, on the expectation of the resuscitation of human remains at a future time.
14 A person must not offer for sale, or sell, an arrangement for
preservation or storage of human remains that is based on
British Columbia officials are not presuming jurisdiction over the promotion or sale of cryonics arrangements outside of the province of BC, and the law literally prohibits the selling, but not the buying of cryonics arrangements. But the law as written makes it sound as if cryonics is simply illegal in British Columbia. This is what any reasonable person would think when reading the law (and what any reasonable lawyer would think when advising others -- such as hospitals -- what is legal). In fact, most medical and funeral personnel in BC who have knowledge of the subject probably believe that cryonics is illegal. If a British Columbia citizen wants to make cryonics arrangements there will have to be a great deal of effort expended persuading and educating medical and funeral personnel.
In support of this interpretation, shortly after receiving his letter from Registrar Winnitoy Mr. Zawacki phoned an officer in the BC Ministry of Health for clarification on shipping requirements. Before returning Mr. Zawacki's call, the officer checked the statutes and then phoned with the information that cryonics is illegal in BC. After being informed that it is neither illegal for a BC resident to buy cryonics service, nor for a funeral director to ship a patient to a cryonics company outside of the province, the officer provided Mr. Zawacki with the necessary shipping requirements.
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Charles Grodzicki, a cryonicist in Vancouver, British Columbia area became increasingly worried in 2006 about BC's anti-cryonics law in connection with his attempts to make cryonics arrangements. He was rebuffed by BC funeral directors when he asked them if they would assist in a cryonics case. Despite all of the supposed disclaimers and "comfort letters" the funeral directors still believed cryonics is illegal in BC and were terrorized by the law.
Charles made contact with the government official charged with enforcing British Columbia funeral and cemetery law and had gotten support from a Vancouver journalist. Although the journalist was not interested in cryonics for herself, she had been touched by the human rights aspect of the issue and wrote an article about his plight.
Since the year 2000 there have been two "comfort letters" written by British Columbia bureaucrats concerning cryonics, one from Solicitor General Coleman to Olaf Henry, September 2002 and one from Registrar Tayt Winnitoy to Cryonics Institute Facilities manage Andy Zawacki, July 2005. These letters have not influenced the attitudes of funeral directors that Charles Grodzicki has attempted to persuade to help him.
I suggested initiating a new letter-writing campaign. We have had writing-campaigns in the past to British Columbia with little effect, so some of us may have become (unduly?) cynical about such efforts.
Also, we learned about a disconnect between the government and the BC funeral director's association. According to one source the funeral director's association had no knowledge of the "comfort letters". The topic of the anti-cryonics law had not once been mentioned at a bi-monthly meeting with the government during the 16-year career of the Executive Director of the association prior to the letter-writing campaign by cryonicists in the Spring of 2006. Janet Ricciutti, Executive Director of the BC Funeral Services Association told me that she had heard more about the anti-cryonics law in the two weeks of the letter-writing than she had heard about it in the 16 years she has been with the Funeral Services Association. As a result of the letters, for the first time in her career cryonics was discussed at a meeting of the BC Funeral Services Association.
It was called to my attention, however, that the large
number of cryonicists writing from locations outside of British
Columbia might not be making the right impression:
> Reply by Janet Ricciutti to a letter writer:
> > I have responded to
> > these telephone calls for the past 15 years and I have never received
> > one telephone call from either a consumer wishing to obtain these
> > services from a funeral director or a funeral director requesting
> > information about purchasing the appropriate supplies or equipment to
> > provide such a service. The only enquiries and calls I have received
> > are from the very active lobbyists representing both the US Cryonics
> > institutes and one or two of their lobbying members.
> She feels that she is being pressured by outside commercial interests and
> "their lobbyists" rather than by BC residents actually wanting cryonics
> service. This is not unlike what we recently saw in the JREF cryonics debate
> where there are "consumers to be protected," and any consumer who has
> decided that they want cryonics is no longer a consumer, but part of the
> "cryonics lobby" that consumers need to be protected from.
> I think it is vital that people writing BC officials make clear that they
> are BC residents, and that this law interferes with their ability to obtain
> even simple cryonics services from funeral directors such as packing in ice
> and shipping. The apparent prohibition of performance of specific
> preparative services is practically a restriction on freedom of religion for
> those BC residents who believe in this manner of disposition. BC residents
> need to make this very personal to be heard as a local consumer trying to
> gain the cooperation of a specific funeral director rather than being seen
> as a mere "lobbyist for the cryonics industry".
Janet Ricciutti is also a member of a larger regulatory group, the Cemetery, Interment & Funeral Services Advisory Group of the British Columbia Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA). I learned that one of the Advisory Group members informed the journalist that he would not touch a cryonics case because it is illegal to ship an unembalmed body out of British Columbia. Subsequently I discussed this matter with Janet Ricciutti of the BC Funeral Services Association who informed me that until early in 2006 there was a requirement that bodies shipped out of BC more than 72 hours post-mortem either had to be embalmed or shipped in a hermetically-sealed container. Cryonics patients are hopefully shipped in less than 72 hours and in any case are typically shipped in a metal Ziegler having rubber gaskets that are screwed tight. Ms. Ricciutti informed me that even this law has been relaxed to state simply that a body must be shipped "in a manner that does not cause a health hazard" and that their members had been informed of this in their May 2006 newsletter. She cautioned me, however, that 10% of BC funeral directors are not members of the Funeral Services Association and may be uninformed.
Cryonics was scheduled to be discussed at a mid-Summer meeting of the Advisory Group, in particular the matter of clarifying the legal liabilities of funeral directors who might assist in shipment of a cryonics patient to a cryonics organization outside of British Columbia. After identifying contact information for members of the Advisory Group I attempted to foment a letter-writing campaign by cryonicists living in British Columbia. After the meeting the following notice was posted to the website of the British Columbia Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) concerning the interpretation of British Columbia's anti-cryonics law -- Section 14 of The Cremation, Interment & Funeral Services Act:
For those who do not like reading PDF files, the notice has the following contents:
######################################################## July 21, 2006 THE ARRANGEMENT AND SALE OF CRYONIC SERVICES IN BC Section 14 of The Cremation, Interment & Funeral Services Act continues to prohibit the sale in BC of an arrangement for the preservation or storage of human remains based on Cryonics and other processes with the expectation of resuscitation of human remains at a future time. The section reads: Prohibition on sales, and offers of sale, of Arrangements relating to cryonics and irradiation 14 A person must not offer for sale, or sell, an arrangement for the preservation or storage of human remains that is based on (a) cryonics, (b) irradiation, or (c) any other means of preservation or storage, by whatever name called, and that is offered, or sold, on the expectation of the resuscitation of human remains at a future time. This section of the Act does not prohibit funeral directors in BC from performing preparation and transport services related to a cryonic arrangement assuming that these services are in compliance with provincial health regulations (www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/reg/H/Health/4_83.htm#part4) and human remains transfer regulations (www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/reg/C/298_2004.htm). To be clear, should a consumer wish their remains to be preserved using cryonics, a BC funeral provider is not prohibited from performing any related services such as preparation and transport, as per the Cremation, Interment & Funeral Services Act regulations. If there are any questions around this issue, please contact the BPCPA directly at (604) 320-1667 in Vancouver or toll free in BC at 1-888-564-9963. #####################################################
I think that this is the best that cryonicists can expect from British Columbia bureaucrats at this time. Presumably an Alcor Transport team or a Suspended Animation team could conduct Standby and Transport under the authority of a British Columbia funeral director.
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It would be best to repeal the anti-cryonics law in British Columbia. This would happen if there was noticeable protest from large numbers of consumers, from funeral directors and recommendations to the BC Solicitor General from the BPCPA Cemetery, Interment & Funeral Services Advisory Group.
Robin Helweg-Larsen a long-time resident of British Columbia and cryonicist Fred Hinsch a current resident wrote letters to British Columbia Solicitor General John Les and received virtually identical form letters in reply:
******************************************************************* I am responding to your letter regarding prohibition on sales, and offers of sale, of arrangements relating to cryonics and irradiation in the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act. At this point in time, information continues to support the view that the benefits of the present legislation outweigh any drawbacks. Government continues to be concerned about British Columbians who may be taken advantage of at a time when they are experiencing grief and sorrow associated with the loss of a family member or friend. Government is also troubled by the notion that consumers who are concerned with their own mortality, or who have a terminal medical or health situation, are particularly vulnerable to the promise of being brought back to life when this clearly cannot be delivered by present-day science. Government intends to maintain the consumer protections provided through the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act as we believe these provisions continue to be in the bet interests of the public and help to ensure a fair marketplace for British Columbia consumers and businesses. ***************************************************************
The phrase "...are particularly vulnerable to the promise of being brought back to life when this clearly cannot be delivered by present-day science" indicates that John Les misses the whole point of cryonics. We realize that we cannot be brought back to life by "present-day science" and that is why we want to be cryo-preserved until the time comes that "future science" can. Les is unaware of the facts of the matter, namely that cryonics organizations offer no guarantees of future reanimation and that cryonics organizations discourage would-be cryonicists from delaying making cryonics arrangements until near the time of mortality. Most active cryonicists plan for cryonics arrangements well ahead of time, but would be thwarted by this uninformed claim to be defending the interests of those who do not exercise foresight.
Further letters to John Les should attempt to educate him on these points, although I doubt that anything less than a court battle has much hope of affecting the BC law.
For those interested in educating Solicitor General John Les, his contact information is:
Honorable John Les
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
PO Box 9053
STN PROV GOVT
Canada V8W 9E2
Phone: (250) 356-7717
Fax: (250) 356-8270
Letters and phone calls could also be directed to members of the Cemetery, Interment & Funeral Services Advisory Group:
BPCPA CIFSA Advisory Group
(1) Kay Johnson, Director, Griefworks BC
4500 Oak St. Rm E405
Canada V6H 3N1
BC Toll free number 1-877-234-3322
(2) Jason W. Everden, General Manager
Everden Rust Funeral Services & Crematorium
1910 Windsor Road
Kelowna, BC V1Y 4R5
(3) Janet E. Ricciutti, Executive Director
Funeral Services Association of BC
2187 Oak Bay Ave.
Canada V8R 1G1
Telephone: (250) 592-3213
Fax: (250) 592-4362
Toll Free (in Canada): (800) 665-3899
(4) Lawrence G. Little, Owner
Personal Alternatives Funeral Services Limited
Telephone: (604) 662-7700
(5) John M. Chasca,
President of BC Independent Family Funeral Home Association
and Owner of McPherson's Funeral Home
McPherson Funeral Services, John M. Chasca
2200 - 2nd Street South
Cranbrook, BC, V1C 1E1 Canada
Telephone: (250) 426-3132
(6) Stephen C. Olson, Secretary Treasurer
Cemetery and Crematorium Association of British Columbia
211 - 2187 Oak Bay Avenue
Canada V8R 1G1
Toll Free: (888) 564-9963
(7) Ellen Leslie, Executive Director
Memorial Society of British Columbia
#212 -- 1847 West Broadway
Canada V6J 1Y6
Telephone: (604) 733-7705
Fax: (604) 733-7730
Toll Free (Canada) Phone: (888) 816-5902
Toll Free (Canada) FAX: (888) 816-5903
(8) Tom R. Aquiline, Deputy Director
Industry Relations, BPCPA
PO Box 9244
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada V8W 9J2
Telephone: (604) 296-2855
(Not a Member, but sometimes attending)
Tayt Winnitoy, Director of Operations
Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority
P. O. Box 9244
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada V8W 9J2
Telephone: (604) 320-1667
Fax: (250) 920-7181
Toll Free: (888) 564-9963