Brampton funeral home temporarily shut down over 60-person indoor gathering

·2 min read

A Brampton funeral home will be the first such operator to be temporarily shut down in Ontario over COVID-19 gathering size violations, the governing body for the bereavement industry said Wednesday.

The Brampton Crematorium and Visitation Centre has had its licence temporarily suspended over a Feb. 27 visitation the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) called “way over the top of what’s allowed,” after dozens more than the 10 person capacity permitted for funeral services attended.

BAO spokesperson David Brazeau told the Star Wednesday although the body has issued cautions to several entities since restrictions were instituted almost a year ago, “this is the first time that we’ve issued a suspension for COVID measures.”

The BAO said the temporary suspension means the facility will be shut down for two weeks starting on March 15. Funeral home manager Puneet Singh Aujla was also suspended from practising for the same timeframe.

“This was a significant breach of the rules,” Brazeau said. “It’s a cautionary tale, to everyone, that following the rules is important and there are consequences if you don’t.”

The Brampton funeral home did not respond to a request for comment.

The violations were observed when inspectors from BAO conducted a random compliance check, Brazeau said.

The funeral home was subsequently charged with failure to comply with public health directives and BAO directives by allowing more than 60 people to gather indoors.

Lockdown measures in place in Peel at the time of the breach permitted only 10 people indoors for funerals.

Brazeau said that breach of COVID rules means the home failed to comply with its licencing conditions. The operator is not allowed to host or accept any new clients during the suspension.

Brazeau said the operator and its manager have accepted the penalty and did not opt to appeal.

Brazeau said funerals are high-risk events with people in close proximity as they console each other, making it harder to maintain distancing.

The BAO said it has not received information about any confirmed COVID-19 cases arising from people being in close proximity at the gathering. Attendees were observed wearing masks.

Toronto and Peel entered the province’s “grey lockdown” category this week, as recommended by public health officials in the two areas. The move keeps the indoor capacity for funerals at 10 people.

The province said Friday it opted to place Toronto and Peel in the lockdown category, a step below the previous stay-at-home order, because the two regions are making progress but their case rates remain high.

Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star