The manager of a Winnipeg funeral home says the province needs to increase the cap on gatherings to allow families to grieve properly.
Current COVID-19 restrictions limit funeral homes to 50 people.
Michael Vogiatzakis of Voyage Funeral points out that includes staff and an officiant, so families are left with a maximum of 44 to 45 mourners at the funeral home.
Mr. Vogiatzakis says it’s not fair that restrictions have been loosened at restaurants and casinos, but not for funeral homes.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s Chief Public Health Officer, has said funerals are super-spreader events and there is no plan to increase the cap at funeral homes.
Mr. Vogiatzakis says the limit has cut his business in half.
“Families are bypassing services altogether. They are not having services at funeral homes, not having services at churches, which means they are grieving alone,” Mr. Vogiatzakis said. “Grieving takes place as a community and when a community grieves together, the healing process starts.”
Many families are opting for cremation and hoping to have a service later, but he said that’s like putting a Band-Aid on a big cut that continues to bleed and hurt.
“The government is going to cause a lot of mental illness amongst families that haven’t had a chance to grieve properly, haven’t had closure,” he said.
“Death is not something we can just stick on the shelf and pretend it didn’t happen. Everyone has lived a life and everyone deserves to be acknowledged.”
On the business side, Mr. Vogiatzakis said, funeral homes still need to pay taxes and bills, despite fewer services.
He notes that churches holding funerals don’t face the same restrictions. They are allowed up to 30 per cent capacity, which could be much more than 50 people.
“It’s unfair business practice,” he said, adding his funeral home could hold 75 people under that rule.
Mr. Vogiatzakis said he doesn’t agree with Dr. Roussin’s decision.
“It is totally unfair to treat us any different than any other business in the city. You can go to a restaurant and sit there with your family. You can go to a patio. You go to the casino. You can go shopping.
“Now they are allowing kids back to school. How’s that fair? It makes no sense whatsoever what Dr. Roussin is doing.”
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