A proposal to cut funding for funerals for destitute people
strikes at the heart of what kind of city Hamilton
should be. We appreciate that painful decisions are needed to
restrain property tax increases, but some programs are not worth
cutting and this is one.
Hamilton's tradition of providing funerals for the poor is a
compassionate -- indeed essential -- social service that people rightly
expect of a caring community. The city is a last
resort, as it should be, in ensuring that people who
can't afford even a rudimentary funeral leave this world with
their dignity intact.
It's not as if the cost of the funerals, provided
to mostly impoverished seniors and the working poor, is inordinate.
The city pays for about 300 funerals at a cost
of about $350,000 a year. In some cases, the disposal
of about 40 unclaimed bodies each year, the expense is
unavoidable since the city is legally bound to provide a
basic service in such circumstances. We can't imagine that many
taxpayers, apart from the most cold-hearted, would begrudge this service.
There are practical implications beyond the humanitarian, in terms of
a potential increase in unclaimed bodies and a backlog at
the morgue. Social agencies fear that very poor people will
simply not claim the body if the city withdraws financial
support. In any case, the proposal is out of sync
with a budget principle that we have outlined, namely the
need to avoid cuts that hurt the most vulnerable. Source.