Court decision opens door to controversial form of liquid cremation

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But in a recent decision, the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the latest appeal by the BAO, which sought to prevent one funeral home from using it until scientific testing proved the process destroys human prions — proteins that can transmit neurodegenerative diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The appeal court said the BAO failed to establish reasonable grounds to believe that the cremation method presented a risk to public health and safety. And it endorsed a lower court ruling that said the precautionary principle had no application in the case, which pitted the BAO against a funeral home in Newcastle, Ont. (about 330 kn west of Ottawa, near Oshawa).

David Brazeau, communications manager for the BAO, sought to minimize the impact of the ruling: “The decision was about the threshold the registrar has to meet for refusing or revoking licences,” Brazeau argued in an email. “It affects one licensee only.”

Asked to elaborate on that reasoning and explain how an Ontario appeal court decision could only apply to one licensee, Brazeau did not respond.

In an interview, Trevor Charbonneau, owner of the Newcastle Funeral Home, said he has spent about $340,000 during his two-and-a-half-year legal battle against the provincial regulator.

Among other things, Charbonneau said, he has financed a scientific study at Indiana University to test the effectiveness of low-temperature alkaline hydrolysis (AH).