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Last rites.

For a native, Winnipeg is not a good place to die. The fact that, in some cases, family members of a departed loved-one may be collecting welfare rather than a paycheque, guarantees a chilly reception at most funeral homes according to Tony Kozak, director of the Aboriginal Funeral Chapel on Selkirk Avenue and a 15-year veteran of the business.

Kozak says funeral homes want cash up front for the casket and burial costs. Those not paying top dollar lose the right to chose what time they can have a service with prime spots, like one o'clock in the afternoon, going to others with deeper pockets. Wakes are limited to two hours or less. Kozak recently helped a family whose deceased father was being held "captive" by a funeral home. No money, no burial. The body had been kept for seven days before he managed to get it.

Such stories are not uncommon, which is why Kozak opened the doors of the Aboriginal Funeral Chapel two years ago, catering exclusively to the Indian population. "The Aboriginal people have accepted the Chapel well without much advertising," he says. "Word has gone out in the community and that's why we're getting the business."

Kozak does not fault other funeral homes in the city for charging fair prices for their services, but what he doesn't like is the lack of flexibility. "A lot of the funeral homes are geared up to money," he says, and they want that cash immediately. Payment plans are not acceptable. That's where the Aboriginal Funeral Chapel differs from the rest. Its Native Board of Directors accepts delayed payments, provides indigenous language translators, works outside of Winnipeg on reserves and allows long wakes which traditionally last all night with some stretching into several days.
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Title Annotation:Native Entrepreneurs; Aboriginal Funeral Chapel in Winnipe, Manitoba
Author:Ryan, Bramwell
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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