A very different “Dear John” letter

Dear John

I write from the traditional unseeded territory of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. Let us all walk the healing and reconciliation journey together, always. Kwukwstemx.

I am trying to remember the last time we actually spoke. One time was at a gathering at Olympic View Gold Club when our son, Cameron hosted with others a fundraising event for Amnesty International. You were quite impressed with the commitment and industry of that high school leadership group. I remember one time you attended the Church of the Advent in Colwood when my sermon included support for a carbon tax. At the time you said “let’s get together” which I took to mean that you were not a supporter of such an economic tool.

And now, here we are; I am retired and you are Premier. Who knew! Most importantly you have made a good recovery from your second cancer scare (I had my own brush in 1992). I so appreciate your openness and calm demeanor throughout your recent illness. While there may be newfound grey hairs, you have recovered your typical swagger. Well done you!

My purpose in writing today is to draw your attention to a simple and timely  climate crisis response. Technically called Alkaline Hydrolysis Aquamation is a method of human remains disposition presently available for animals but not for humans here in BC. It is currently legal in Sask, ONT, QUE, NFLD,  and NWT. Funeral directors I work with want to make this option available here in BC and are prepared to invest in the necessary equipment. These directors are quite frustrated however with the negative response of successive provincial governments, including yours.

The best news is that as in Saskatchewan, your government does not need to enact new legislation or modify existing acts. A change in detail at the regulatory level, itself generated through an Order in Council, would enable Aquamation to be added alongside Cremation and other traditional practices for all British Columbians.

The urgency of such matters was recently reinforced for me as I learned that last year in British Columbia there were over forty thousand deaths. Of these, close to 90% were cremations. Given that a single cremation releases the same amount of emissions as driving a car from the BC legislature to Toronto City Hall, you can imagine the carbon footprint of flame-based cremation. Given the anticipated increase of deaths as the baby-boomer generation transitions to what lies beyond, over the next ten years that annual statistic will increase at least ten-fold. That’s a lot of power consumed and emissions released.

Aquamation uses a liquid-based decomposition process which renders human remains into liquid form. The liquid can then be placed almost anywhere. Remaining solids are ground up as with traditional cremation; other items such as dental fixtures or surgical implants are recyclable. Most importantly however, setting aside flame-based cremation reduces gas consumption significantly.

Admittedly I knew nothing about Aquamation until the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu requested that his remains be disposed through Aquamation. Even beyond the grave “The Arch” speaks and acts! As I faced my own mortality some years ago (I was advised to put my affairs in order in 1992! Due to Malignant Melanoma) I have previously thought through end-of-life matters, which now include disposition of my remains.

Now to my point: We need your help! An amazing group called AquamationBC has been raising this possibility with specific ministries who themselves administer and regulate Funeral Services in BC. A growing number of BC residents are asking that this additional process be legalized, here and now.

Speaking of the present moment, well let’s talk politics. You and your government face many challenges presently. I suggest that enabling Aquamation through a simple adjustment to regulation would be another visible and positive response to the climate Crisis. I know the folks at AquamationBC are willing and ready to assist with support in a timely and effective way. I dare to suggest that the incorporation of Aquamation within human disposition possibilities here in BC would encourage and delight many of us who continue to look to you and your government for hope for a rather uncertain future.

The above is offered with much respect and appreciation for your leadership. Kind regards to Ellie,

Ken Gray (The Very Rev, Ret.)

Gentleman of Leisure

The most important action BC residents over the age of eighteen can take at this time is to sign a formal legislative petition, one which complies with the legal process required for government consideration. The petition can be accessed through the AquamationBC website. Additionally those who are part of groups including service clubs, faith communities, cultural organizations, neighbourhood and family groups could include the subject of Aquamation in their conversation and programming. Assistance is always available from the folks at AquamationBC.

If this information and request come at a time of grief and loss please accept my apologies.

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