|Joan McLaren of Portage la Prairie, Man. (QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg funeral home won't face repercussions for improperly taking a body from a hospital and then indirectly charging the deceased's family a "transfer" fee following its mistake.
A competing firm alleges that the Funeral Board of Manitoba's decision not to reprimand the Cropo Funeral Chapel is a sign of the regulatory body's "corrupt" and political leanings.
"There should have been a hearing and a reprimand, as per their conduct," Richard Wojcik, owner of Wojcik's Funeral Chapel and Crematorium, said Friday of the result of a funeral board probe into the flap last November.
Joan McLaren of Portage la Prairie, Man., contacted Cropo for funeral pricing information shortly after the death of her adult son last fall in a Winnipeg-area highway crash, though she made no agreement with the company. She then turned to Wojcik and chose his service, instead, to handle arrangements for her son's body.
When Wojcik's firm began the process of acquiring the body from Health Sciences Centre, it was told that the remains had been released to Cropo -- without McLaren's permission.
Though Wojcik was able to get the body back from Cropo quickly, Cropo allegedly billed McLaren's family what Wojcik describes as a "transfer of deceased" fee of $124, plus $6.20 in tax.
"That's kind of sad, especially at a time when you're in grief," McLaren told QMI Agency in February.
"From a funeral home, you expect a little bit more."
McLaren couldn't be reached for comment this weekend on the funeral board's finding -- stated in a letter to her -- that though Cropo "did not have proper authorization to remove the deceased" from HSC, its funeral director "acted in good faith believing he had authorization" to do so.
In the letter, board chairwoman Susan Boulter adds that the incident involved "no breach" of law or of a funeral directors code of ethics, and that it "considers this file closed."
Wojcik charged that funeral service "politics" is behind the board's decision not to take action against Cropo. He added that the board went to great lengths to try to hold his company accountable for a similar mix-up involving no wrongdoing about two years ago, before eventually backing away.
"They're admitting to Mrs. McLaren that the funeral home did, in error, do that," Wojcik said of the board, whose members are appointed by the Manitoba government.
"But the funeral board is not prepared at all, in any way, shape or form, to do anything about it."
Boulter could not be reached for comment on Friday.
"The funeral board does have the capacity to take action if a complaint has been filed against a funeral home," a provincial spokeswoman said.