Kahnawake man fights bureaucracy, takes father’s body home for burial
CTV News, February 15, 2018
The death of an indigenous man in Kahnawake has caused some trouble for a family that wished to bury him as soon as possible.
Stuart Myiow Sr. died Tuesday morning at his home and was subsequently taken to Anna Laberge-Hospital in Chateauguay in order to be declared deceased.
But before his body entered the hospital, a problem cropped up: administrators said that once they accepted Myiow’s body, they were only allowed to release his body to an accredited funeral facility.
Stuart Myiow Jr. then tried to find a funeral home that would do that without performing a full funeral service but he was not able to do so.
Instead, Myiow ended up taking his father’s remains home himself, in his car, in order to hold a funeral before sunset.
“So here we are in this day and age that a Mohawk cannot, because of bureaucracy, be buried in the way of our customs,” said Myiow.
He chronicled the incident on video, acknowledging that “afterwards there’s going to be legal problems.”
The funeral was held on Tuesday before sundown.
“We have fulfilled my father’s final wishes. The way that he lived in this world is the way that he wanted to die, to be taken care of,” said Myiow.
Chateauguay police were informed of the incident and opened a file on Tuesday to determine if anything criminal occurred.
Spokeswoman Nathalie Langevin said they were called on Tuesday and have since been gathering information about what happened.
Langevin said police also spoke with the coroner’s office and the Crown as part of the probe.
“We’re trying to establish the facts and we have a lot of things to verify,” she said.
The family refused to have the father admitted and hospital spokesperson Jade St-Jean said administrators were sensitive to the situation, with a team trying to find a solution that would respect the family’s beliefs and the hospital’s legal obligations.
“While we were doing that, someone left with the body so we called the authorities at that point,” St-Jean said, adding no certificate was issued.
“For us, how it works is from the moment a body is admitted at the hospital, we have the responsibility, legally, to release it to an accredited funeral home,” St-Jean said.
In the video, Myiow confirmed he left with his father’s body in the backseat and buried him as intended.
“This is the way that our people are supposed to go,” he said. “They are not supposed to be planted in the ground with embalming fluid to poison the ground, the earth.”
St-Jean said the incident was a first for the hospital.
She said they would like to meet with Kahnawake community members to better understand practices and avoid similar incidents.