Our network provides caregivers and communities alike with vital information and consumer advocacy in support of ethical practices and, where necessary, reform of regulation of funeral and cemetery goods and services. A healthy and informed regulatory environment in the care of one of society’s most vulnerable consumers can no longer be considered a luxury. It must now be considered absolutely essential in the provision of genuine care.
If you happen to be someone that is asked for referrals to end-of-life-care professionals by the people you serve, being informed is the first step to establishing a sound ethical system and PICA is here to help.
The Partners In Care Alliance Society (PICA) is an association of caregivers moved to action by the vital need for education and advocacy when it comes to ‘end-of-life-care’ issues. PICA was formed in the largely unregulated Vancouver, B.C. of the early 1990s, by caregivers who supported ethical professionals in the funeral and cemetery professions and who helped lobby for better regulations.
1960’s and 70’s
Funeral consolidation began to take shape as several aggressive consolidators began
a buying spree of family owned funeral homes in the US and abroad, capturing 20% of the
North American market by the late 1990’s.
The national funeral chains began to focus on marketing pre-arranged funerals. This practice became much easier where the chains could gain access to local cemetery records to get the names and addresses of plot owners. Claiming to update plot records access could easily be gained to plot owner’s households where then commissioned sales people could try to sell the survivors pre-paid funerals.
Sophisticated consolidator funeral chain lobbies were also able to shape much of the ensuing funeral regulations in the 42 states and eight provinces allowing funeral homes in cemeteries.
The FFA was formed as an ad-hoc group founded to promote consumer advocacy and public education, began working with caregivers to educate the public and build support for opposing bad laws.
This group later on formed their own organization: PICA
In the late 1980′s, the group formally brought certain questionable solicitation practices used by international funeral consolidators on the elderly to the attention of regulators and the B.C. Seniors Association and the Consumer’s Association of Canada.
The groups began working with a broader cross section of consumer groups, healthcare professionals, and clergy offering in-service seminars and resources both to help improve care for the bereaved and to educate the public and regulators on the need to improve regulations.
While hiring “find-for-a-fee” commissioned sales people allowed the national funeral chains to greatly increase their sales coverage it placed enormous competitive pressure on small businesses and the non-profit cemetery community, forcing many smaller funeral homes to sell out.
B.C. finally passed a law banning direct (telephone or door-to-door) solicitation of the public by funeral and/or cemetery companies.
The FFA discovered that the largest funeral consolidator Service Corporation International (SCI) of Houston Texas, was trying to trademark a name that had the clear potential to deceive the public. The name ‘Family Funeral Care’, used in conjunction with the name of the previous owner (ie: JONES FAMILY Funeral Care), could easily be used to confuse the public, giving an impression the publicly traded funeral conglomerate’s chapels were ‘family owned’.
The city of Vancouver received a proposal to privatize the management of the City’s only non-profit cemetery. Loewen Group, the second largest consolidator, had offered to take over the management. The groups sent letters out to 500 organizations and individuals decrying this proposal. Newspapers and TV began doing stories and 75 organizations came forward in support of the group’s bid to keep Mountain View ‘not-for-profit’. With the support of the Jewish, Chinese, Japanese. And Russian communities, combined with the United, Anglican, Pentecostal, Salvation Army and Catholic Churches, the group (then called the Civic Cemetery Society) organized and shared the cost of preparing a community proposal to compete with Loewen.
On May 16, the City of Vancouver declined the Loewen Group proposal and accepted their proposal.
In September licensing of personnel and facilities was finally brought into law, but the national funeral chains by then had already acquired over 75% of the B.C. funeral service providers.
The FFA also filed three trademark oppositions against misdescriptive (deceptive) trademark filings made by SCI.
The FFA was asked formally to submit a request for regulatory reform to the Province of British Columbia. Chief among the FFA and the caregiver group’s requests were:
1) Mandatory disclosure of national funeral chain ownership of local funeral homes – now law
2) Mandatory disclosure or real address where funeral service providers operate from – now law
3) A ban on the solicitation of plot owners by funeral homes located in cemeteries – now law
As part of FFA’s trademark opposition against SCI, 15,000 requests for evidence were mailed to family owned funeral homes asking for evidence and examples of where the national funeral consolidators were using confusing marketing information to appear like locally owned family businesses. The evidence received filled five affidavits, which laying down stood seven inches thick.
The Partners In Care Alliance was formed, consisting of roughly 300 members. Although the FFA was the legal agent of record in these oppositions, PICA’s support of the FFA truly allowed changes to be achieved in the following regulatory districts:
The FFA was asked by the Consumer Affairs Commission of the City of New York to provide evidence in support of their regulatory recommendations. The FFA and their supporter group’s recommendations were accepted and mandatory disclosure of national funeral chain ownership became law in New York.
The FFA filed a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against Service Corporation International advertising itself in certain regions as “Affiliated Family Funeral Homes”.
In October the FFA addressed the Canadian Bar Association – Wills and Estates Division and expressed their concerns about the current lack of national regulations in funeral service. Chief among the concerns of the Canadian Bar Association Wills and Estates Division was “Tied-selling” between funeral homes and cemeteries, actually a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.
In November the FFA Chair addressed the Federal Trade Commission and raised the same concerns about the concentration of ownership and tied selling between funeral homes and cemeteries where they were allowed to be located together.
In September the FFA was invited to participate in the Public Policy Forum review of the Canadian Competition Act. Nine recommendations were made under the aims of Bill C-402 sponsored by MP Dan McTeague, dealing with the “abuse of dominance” in the retail sector. The Bill was in response to consumer concerns about markets dominated by a few big players. The FFA urged the federal government not to allow history to keep repeating itself on these issues, declaring it was vital to give equal weight to the views of all Canadians.
March 6, the province of B.C. adopted the three primary recommendations of the FFA from 1997 making them law.
In May 2001 Consumer Reports Magazine reported that Family-owned local Independent funeral homes… “on average offered funerals for $2,000 less than the big national chains.” In the Vancouver market where the average service is roughly $2,000, that would make SCI 100% more expensive, but Vancouver is an unusual market. It is 80% consolidated or “conglomerate-owned”.
The FFA attended the bankruptcy hearings of the Loewen Group explaining to the creditors that the company was worth considerably more broken up and sold back to individual operators. These recommendations were ignored in the Wilmington procedures.
In December 1991 allegations were filed against SCI for exhuming clients and discarding the remains of clients in a neighbouring swamp, and reselling graves. Criminal charges were filed.
The FFA gained the support of about 3,500 family owned funeral homes at their Canadian Trademark Commission Hearing on whether SCI should be awarded the trademark “Family Funeral Care”. On April 23, the Canadian Trademark Office found in favor of the FFA opposition, and denied SCI their trademark registration.
In May the FFA is approached by a number of the healthcare, religious, caregiver groups and asked to start a new public education vehicle (a group that did not include the word funeral in its name). After several focus groups were organized and research done, the PARTNERS IN CARE ALLIANCE (PICA) was announced and within a year completed 200 presentations to nursing homes, hospitals, consumer groups, seniors groups and churches.
In June the Order of the Golden Rule Association, and the Independent Funeral Directors Associat5ions of Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Michigan, Maryland, Maine, New York, and Virginia all announced their joining the FFA’s US Trademark Opposition against SCI’s attempt to register “Family Funeral Care” in the United States, establishing the ‘Prevent SCI’s Trademark Fund’ or ‘PST Fund’, and organizing fund-raising support to help with extensive legal costs. In June SCI declined to defend its USA Trademark Registration against FFA’s Opposition. In July SCI threatened to sue PICA over faulty research.
PICA responded that it welcomed the opportunity to defend its research in any venue SCI chose (because the publicity would bring much needed attention to the issues) but thought a live television debate on inadequate funeral regulation would be far more useful to the public (no response so far).
In April the Florida Courts dropped the criminal charges against SCI because a criminal conviction might result in the insurance company not paying the victims of their malpractice.
A new consumer regulatory organization, the Business Practice and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) was introduced.
Funding for the new BC regulatory authority was introduced late in the year.
Great News! Financial Post reports that SCI has Buried Hard Sell Approach. Mr. Crean responds to the editor.
The FFA has expressed their deep frustration with the fact that as yet neither the law requiring funeral home ownership or the law requiring disclosure of location are being enforced.
BC Business covered the Independent FFA Campaign
Frank Stewart was invited to be keynote speaker at the Catholic Cemetery Association Convention held in Vancouver B.C., Canada that year. Mr. Crean challenged Mr. Stewart’s position on consolidators partnering with the Church communities especially with respect to operation of their cemeteries.
Presentations and tours to healthcare workers, colleges and faith communities continue in effort to raise awareness over vital reforms required to ensure a healthy regulatory environment.
Globe & Mail Report on Small Business covers the FFA Campaign, and the Kearney Family Business
The FFA and the Professionals in Care Alliance arranged their first faith luncheon to begin to build a faith based taskforce to finally complete the reforms required to create a healthy funeral service regulatory environment.
October will see saw their first PR Campaign launch for the further five reforms, beginning with their call for new cemetery space being made available in the Lower Mainland, beginning with the Pickton Farm, which already has 69 women buried there. On BC Bereavement Day (November 14th) PICA arranged a memorial service as the gate of the farm, asking the Provincial Government to consider donating the land to PICA to become a new not-for-profit cemetery, with part of the proceeds going to care and support for families of the victims, and further funding allocated to fund university research into confronting and more adequately challenging violence against women.
The Vancouver Sun on March 17th writes a two page article on the Kearney Family Business going into extensive detail over the work they have done to support improving the quality of end-of-life-care in B.C.
The FFA and the Professionals in Care Alliance continue to arrange meetings and seminars with community and church groups working to build awareness around the need for improving both the options available and the regulations governing end-of-life care.
On BC Bereavement Day this year PICA arranged it’s second annual Missing Women’s Memorial and ‘dove release’at the ‘Marker For Change’ at Thorton Park in Vancouver.
The Professionals in Care Alliance continue to arrange meetings and seminars with community and church groups working to build awareness around the need for improving both the options available and the regulations governing end-of-life care.
On BC Bereavement Day this year PICA arranged it’s third annual Missing Women’s Memorial at Mountain View Cemetery in conjunction with the BC Bereavement Helpline and Victims of Homicide in Vancouver.
The Professionals in Care Alliance has begun to research other possibilities for cemeteries in the lower mainland as well as continuing to arrange meetings and seminars with community and church groups working to build awareness around the need for improving both the options available and the regulations governing end-of-life care.
BC Bereavement Day this year was changed to the third Sunday of May, which is ‘Hospice Month’ and as such the fourth annual Victim’s Memorial and dove release were arranged again at Mountain View Cemetery, again in partnership with the BC Bereavement Helpline and Victims of Homicide in Vancouver.
Sixty Minutes broadcast a scathing report on cemetery and funeral home abuse due to inadequate regulation and enforcement in America, siting that SCI currently charged $23,000 for their plots in a Jewish Cemetery in Los Angeles. A truly shocking revelation about this observation is that plots in SCI’s Burnaby Cemetery, Ocean View, are selling for closer to double!
The Professionals in Care Alliance continues to meet with community groups and churches holding seminars to help members and residents to achieve better end of life care through increased options and education.
BC Bereavement Day this year was again marked by the fifth annual Victim’s Memorial and dove release, arranged again at Mountain View Cemetery, and this year featuring speaker Janet Wright, famed actor of the Corner Gas and Beach-comer series, again in partnership with the BC Bereavement Helpline and Victims of Homicide in Vancouver.
PICA continued to host seminars and joined with several partners/members to share its first booth at a convention: the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association Convention in Ottawa.
PICA hosted its first two booths in BC, the first being Zoomer at the BC Trade and Convention Centre and the second being the Advocis Financial Planners Convention at the Vancouver Italian Cultural Centre.
Non-profit partners cosponsoring included the B.C. Bereavement Helpline, Lower Mainland Grief Recovery, B.C. Victims of Homicide, and the Gardens of Gethsemani. Four for-profit partners also co-sponsored the event: Mackenzie, Kearney, Columbia Bowell, and Kearney South Surrey Funeral Homes.
The PICA Board also engaged in two full-day workshops to update its goals, mission, and strategic plan.
In response to the new directives established by the Board for the upcoming year, in the first week of January PICA will be publishing its three strategic objectives for 2015 here on its website.
Reverend Giulio Lorefice Gabeli is the National Director of Canada Celebrates Israel Network of Christians and Jews, and the Canadian Liaison of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, which is dedicated to promoting friendship and cooperation with political governments, as well as facilitating dialogue between Christian & Jewish organizations with the State of Israel.
Pastor Gabeli is also the Executive Leader for the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham coming in March of 2017. He serves as well as a General Overseer of the Canadian Assemblies of God and an Advisor to a number of National Canadian Ministries. He is the Lead Pastor of Westwood Community Church, in Vancouver Canada, a multi-cultural congregation with a number of ethnic satellite works. He is the Director of the Hope Vancouver Network and the Chair of the Voices Together Movement, an umbrella ministerial organization that serves the Association of Christian Ministries of Greater Vancouver.
Pastor Gabeli has authored the book, “Grafted In, A Jewish Christian Perspective.” He is committed to pursuing the establishment of the ‘One New Man’ comprised of Jew & Gentile believers according to what is recorded in Ephesians chapter 2 and 3. As the church takes her place to stand with Israel, he believes this will fulfill the ultimate plan of God.
He ministers together along with his spouse of 32 years, Lina, an ordained full-time minister, and is the father of three children: Adam, Jessica, Deborah and 2 grand children, Victoria and Natalia.
1978 Tom became President of Kearney Funeral Services Ltd., and in 1979 bought Columbia Chapel in New Westminster. In 1991 he purchased Royal Oak, Woodlawn, S. Bowell and Sons (former head office of ‘The Loewen Group’), also in New Westminster, B.C., amalgamating it with Columbia. In April of 2012 the BC Funeral Service Association celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Tom and his family were honored for being the only founding member, still in business. Today the business serves more families than any other family funeral home in B.C. In September 2016, Tom sold his shares in the family firm to his brother Michael.
In January 2017 Tom acquired land in Surrey he had helped rezone into the first new cemetery in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland in 50 years. This area has now become the most expensive burial ground in North America. Tom has been successful in securing partnerships with a number of faith communities, plus members of both the Muslim and Jewish community supplying full-burial space again to a region that had pretty much become a monopoly. His Heritage Garden Cemetery is providing permanent burial leases to its co-op members.
Tom became involved in consumer advocacy and public education very early in his career. B.C. had the least regulation in North America with respect to both funeral and cemetery service, attracting the two largest funeral conglomerates to Vancouver in their beginning days, back in the 1960’s. In fact, they first met here. By 1996 the chains were handling more than 80% of the funeral arrangements in Greater Vancouver. In 2006, the biggest chain acquired the second biggest, and 2010, they acquired the third.
By invitation, Tom has offered testimony to regulators in many jurisdictions including Ottawa, New York and Washington, D.C. He has been asked to address many funeral associations and sustainable business groups including the American Sustainable Business Council and the American Independent Business Alliance. Tom’s activism culminated in raising a civilian movement to save Vancouver’s only cemetery (the City of Vancouver’s Mountain View) from privatization. Organizing 4,000 Independent funeral firms, Tom was able to defeat the ‘misdescriptive’ trademark ‘family funeral care’, both in Canada and the US, approved (subject to opposition) for the largest multi-billion-dollar funeral Conglomerate, Service Corporation International, of Houston Texas (which today owns eight of the nine real funeral homes remaining in Vancouver/Burnaby).
As a result, BC became an important ‘teaching moment’ for the rest of North America. Being the least regulated or enforced jurisdiction for funeral and cemetery service legislation, when the people of Vancouver showed up by the hundreds (carrying signs saying ‘Our Heritage is Not for Sale’), it was a world-wide ‘gamechanger’ for Tom’s profession. Tom was asked to share the news coverage of that event with three continents. But the funeral press still needed to sell ads to the conglomerates. How could corporations so ruthlessly at odds with those they serve, be so dishearteningly successful? Tom’s penchant for going up against impossible odds caused him to make an ironic choice of heroes, a man he calls the ‘patron saint’ of lost causes: Don Quixote. Since four of his five campaigns against inadequate consumer protection of grieving families were successful, Simon Fraser University’s faculty of Anthropology student Matthew Hayes actually made a short film on Tom’s endeavors which won ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Annapolis Valley Film Festival:
Tom Quixote: https://vimeo.com/62996908
The film was also officially selected in both Gimly and Dawson City, Yukon. With forty-five years in funeral service Tom also serves locally on the board of several civic and professional organizations: Past-president of the Rotary Club of Vancouver, Tom is currently President of the Family Funeralhome Association and a founding director of the Partners In Care Alliance. He served six years prior and has just been re-elected to the Board of the Surrey Hospice Society (www.surreyhospice.com), where he now serves as President. He also serves on the Board of the B.C. Association for Media Education (www.bcame.org) and the Family Association for Media Education (www.F-A-M-E.ca). Following 22 years on the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association Tom also serves on the Board and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies (CIIPS at www.infoandprivacy.ca). Father of three, Tom is an avid songwriter/musician playing both guitar and banjo*. He also enjoys hobbies of tennis, swimming, skiing, fishing and boating, being a member of the Royal Airforce Yacht Club, Southampton, UK.
* His trademark tune: ‘The Undertaker Blues’ is a free download at: http://TommyCandTombstones.com.
Our representatives are being recruited for the purpose of education and advocacy of ethical practices regarding the important subject of end-of-life-care issues.
This education component targets two communities. The first includes end-of-life-care professionals in nursing, social work, palliative and pastoral care in hospitals, as well as staff in both hospices and nursing homes. The second target community is the general public who are making themselves available through whatever public forum of choice. The public forums are also an opportunity for PICA, the speaker, and the venue to raise funds.
If you would like further details about becoming a PICA representative, please contact us!
We work with people from all walks of life who are passionate about our mission and purpose but our main focus is to attract retired or semi-retired members of the end-of-life-care community, former nurses, social workers, clergy, and people already familiar with the challenges faced by Vancouver’s citizens confronting the lack of existing ethical care options at the end of life.
Not sure whether we are a good fit for you? Please talk to us!
As a PICA representative, you are someone who is concerned about the lack of adequate regulation of the funeral and cemetery sector. This situation, especially in the case of Vancouver, BC, has resulted in a dysfunctional lack of funeral and burial options.
We are hoping our PICA representatives can manage to organize a minimum of two seminars per month. From these seminars, the PICA representative would earn 2% of sales for appointments we generate and 3% of sales for seminar appointments they generate themselves. At the minimum, we ideally expect our representatives to host at least one seminar per pay-period.
In addition to hosting seminars, new PICA representatives will be required to attend a PICA training day workshop. Though recruiting additional people to become PICA representatives is not a requirement of the position, recruitment for this cause is always encouraged!
If you have further questions about these requirements, please contact us.
To apply to be a PICA representative, simply complete and submit the attached application form on-line.
If you have any questions regarding the application, we welcome you to contact us.
Once your status as a PICA representative has been approved, PICA will provide you with a full set of informational brochures at your training day workshop, including our Code of Ethical Practices. You will also receive two copyrighted PowerPoint presentations complete with notes, which will empower you to address each our of target communities.
Please contact us if you feel you need further guidance and support.
The cost of joining PICA for an individual or not-for-profit organizations is $10 per month and for for-profit businesses the cost is $25 per month. The fee is payable by credit card and is charged on a monthly basis. To inquire about payment options, please contact us.