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Pandemic means limited funeral visitations

(Courtesy T. Sansregret)

 After discussions with the COVID-19 Task Force, Leanne Poissant from Poissant and Deer funeral home, agreed to temporarily shut down their branch in Kahnawake in order to prevent spreading of the virus. 

For now, they have directed all appointments to their branch in St. Constant, according to Poissant. 

“We talked with the Task Force in Kahnawake, and because we are not residents, we only have a building, they don’t want us to come and go. We are only allowed to pick up the deceased,” said Poissant. 

The parlour will continue to hold visitations, however all ceremonies and receptions have been indefinitely suspended. Visitations are limited to close family members – colleagues and friends will not be permitted. Burials will also be held in private.

The number of people allowed will be controlled in order to respect social distancing. For visitations, Poissant said the parlour would allow 50 percent of people at a time, “let’s say they want to have 30 people, we go with two groups of 15.” 

Prior to temporarily shutting down the parlour in Kahnawake, Robyn Montour, general manager of Public Safety Operations and member of the Task Force, discussed Poissant’s procedures, and followed suit based on their recommendations. 

In collaboration with Poissant, the 207 Longhouse in Kahnawake is still offering services. According to Lynne Norton, secretary at the longhouse, families won’t be able to have a wake in town, but will have speakers from the longhouse attend services in St. Constant if requested.

“We haven’t had any wakes at the longhouse, we understand that in these times we have no choice but to go to St. Constant,” Norton said.

Both Montour and Poissant acknowledged that implementing procedures, and limiting who is able to attend visitations and funerals, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, was a difficult thing to deal with so early on. 

“When somebody passes away in the community, it’s usually a big gathering because there’s a lot of extended family, we have a close-knit community,” said Montour. “We didn’t want to have these big gatherings, where the potential to spread the virus would be great.”

Poissant said it’s difficult for grieving families to accept the situation due to the pandemic. “It’s more problems added to the families,” she said.

According to Montour, they received requests to have funeral services at the Moose Lodge, but discouraged families from holding services there, because it wouldn’t be possible to abide by the social distancing measures, as well as the procedures they adopted from Poissant. 

“Some of the procedures that Poissant was implementing was to have one family come in at a time. That wouldn’t be feasible for a place like the Moose. It wouldn’t be as controlled as, say, if they have it at a small parlour,” said Montour. 

“We were just encouraging people to contact Poissant directly and do their service there since they already have these things in place already,” she continued. 

After speaking to families about the procedures that were put in place, Montour was somewhat surprised to hear there was no push back from the community. 

“They understood that whatever directives were in place, that they needed to be followed,” Said Montour. “People were willing to follow the guidelines that were in place for funerals.” 

Because of the pandemic, there is uncertainty surrounding many businesses as to when they will be able to open and begin easing restrictions. According to Poissant, there is no set date when they will be able to open everything. 

“I’ve talked with the church over here in St. Constant, they are not close to opening. For the reception, it’s the same thing because everyone will be sharing food, they’ll be close, so it’s dangerous for the contagion,” said Poissant. 

“For the moment, it’s undetermined.”

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