FORT ST. JOHN -- A Fort St. John funeral home is calling on Northern Health and some of British Columbia’s top government officials to ease specific COVID-19 Restrictions. The restrictions called into question surrounding funeral services and who is allowed to attend them.

Hamre's Funeral Chapel is the only business in the F.S.J. area offering funeral services to the city and its community members.The funeral director, Kaylie Hamre, is addressing concerns about COVID-19 restrictions introduced back on October 15, 2021.

For Indoor Services, all individuals over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination. No more than 50 persons can attend, or a lesser number depending on how many can be accommodated safely. This number does not include funeral staff.

A Covid-19 safety plan is required, masks must be worn and contract tracing is required.

For Outdoor Services, all individuals over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination. A Covid-19 safety plan is required. If not seated, a distance of 2 meters must be maintained.

Up to 100 people are permitted to attend, not including funeral staff and contract tracing is required.

The restrictions weigh heavily on those who choose to stay unvaccinated or are unable to do so, preventing them from saying their final goodbyes.

This is something that Hamre has witnessed since the new restrictions came into place, “they are, according to the new mandates, not allowed to come in and pay their respects to a loved one. It is crushing to a funeral home. It is devastating to sit across from them and to have to be that person on the other side of the table telling them they are not welcome.”

Because of this, Hamre is attempting to speak up for those that can’t say goodbye. She has written letter and sent it to Northern Health, Premier John Horgan, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The letter says,

“As we continue to work through the most recent set of public health orders given by our government, it won’t shock anyone to hear of the struggle and despair suffered by many small businesses. Together we face the challenges of an on going pandemic that has no end in sight and do everything in our power to continue serving our beloved community and maintaining some sort of normalcy through it all.

Being owner of a small-town funeral home, I have experienced this struggle firsthand as we desperately try to help members of our community prepare services for a loved one. While guiding them on their unexpected grief journey we provide the necessary things one might need such as a viewing or a funeral service. An event that marks the death of a loved one that society teaches us is so very important to the grieving process. A celebration that has been a struggle for many over the past two years as families are limited on the number of guests they may invite, limited on venues available, and as of October 14th limited on who can attend.

On October 14th Dr Bonnie Henry mandated the Northern Health region to require a vaccination passport for any person attending any indoor event which is to include funeral services. If this sentence alone doesn't raise concerns for you, let me describe what I am faced with daily. If you could imagine for a minute a distraught woman who has just lost her husband and comes looking for some guidance from our staff on how to plan a celebration of life. A meaningful service for a beloved husband, father and grandfather who served our community and devoted his life to those in need. Together we talk, I educate and provide options, we laugh and we cry as we share stories, and as directed by our government I disclose the current health orders with the most recent change requiring those in attendance to be fully vaccinated. As I see the instant devastation in her eyes, I hear “I’m not vaccinated and can’t even say goodbye to my husband”.

To tell you my heart is crushed is an understatement. To deny a spouse, a child, a grandchild, or any family member to such a sacred thing is wrong. A funeral service is NOT a social event. As funeral directors we strive to be perfect as this “event” is a one-time thing. We don’t get a do over and this family will never get the opportunity to see or say goodbye to their loved one again. Shame on you for denying anyone of being able to pay their respects through viewing, for not allowing them to lay their loved one to rest and most importantly for denying them of this most important step in their grief journey. Shame on you for putting me in a position where I must stand in their way and shame on you for thinking this is acceptable in any way.

As I write this, I beg of you to think of those families who are facing what is one of the most challenging times in their lives. Families who in very uncertain times are now at their most fragile, vulnerable state and need love and support from everyone around them. Families who may need a viewing or a chance to say goodbye for closure, acceptance or to help move them to the next stage of their grieving process. Vaccine or no vaccine we are all human and we all deserve the same rights and rituals required to move through the stages of grief. To deny someone of this is inhumane and will be devastating to our society. Together we grieve and only together will we make it through that journey.

*I must disclose this letter is in no way attacking or denying the need for a vaccine. This letter is to fight for the families I serve, who have chosen for their own reason, not to vaccinate at this time.*”

Fort St. John’s city council agreed in a recent meeting to endorse Hamre’s letter. As of now, Hamre has yet to receive a response from any of the letter’s intended recipients.