Ontario’s funeral-home watchdog has suspended the licence of two GTA funeral homes owned by a woman who was previously stripped of her funeral-director licence for falsifying embalming records and lying to cover up her actions.
The board has filed a notice to permanently revoke the homes’ licences.
“We believe that it is in the interest of the public that this funeral home not operate,” said Doug Simpson, registrar of the board.
Last fall the business was at the centre of a community firestorm after it tried to build a crematorium at its Mississauga location.
View Larger Map – Mississauga Location: 3295 Derry Rd E, Mississauga, ON L4T 1A8
On Monday evening, owner Prabhjot Kaur Johal said she will fight the board’s attempt to revoke the licences.
“Their rationale is very irrational. It holds no grounds and no merit,” Johal said.
Simpson said the board is not permitted to publicize the specific reasons for why it wants to revoke the facilities’ licences.
“There’s been a history of non-compliance in various areas, and those, in our opinion, justify the action that we’re taking,” Simpson said.
Speaking generally, Simpson said the board could pull a home’s licence for several reasons, including improper handling of contracts and a failure to carry out responsibilities in handling human remains.
“These things are fairly rare instances where we actually have to take this kind of action,” Simpson said. “We do conduct regular inspections of funeral homes.”
View Larger Map – Toronto Location: 1357 Queen W, Toronto, ON M6K 1M1, located at Queen Street West, west of Dunn Avenue, on the south side of Queen.
A 2010 funeral board investigation into Benisasia found Johal guilty of professional misconduct for signing six false embalming reports.
Johal appealed the decision to the Provincial Licence Appeal Tribunal, which directed the board to revoke her licence. Johal launched a series of unsuccessful appeals up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which declined to hear the case.
The tribunal found that Johal, who was required to perform 50 embalmings to become a fully licensed funeral director, inappropriately took credit for the work of another woman interning at the funeral parlour.
Johal falsified reports and other documents in an attempt to claim the work as her own.
In one of the most glaring instances, the tribunal said, Johal reported that a body she claimed to have embalmed was 5 feet 3 inches and weighed 105 pounds. The family of the deceased said the body was actually 6 foot 1 and 160 pounds.
In her attempt to cover up the misconduct, Johal spun “a calculated web of deception in which she attempted to implicate four of her employees and ex-employees,” the tribunal said in its decision.
“These deceptions and her persistence in them raise legitimate concerns about her ability to conduct her business in accordance with the law and with integrity and honesty. Bereaved families are in a particularly vulnerable situation and they need to be assured that they are dealing with a person of probity at this time,” the tribunal said in its decision.
“Given that Ms Johal has attempted to implicate her own employees and former employees in her lies, has lied to her regulating body and to this tribunal, there are reasonable grounds to believe that she would deceive her customers if it were self-serving for her to do so.”
The Mississauga location of Benisasia has been licensed since 2002, and the Toronto location on Queen St. West has been licensed since 2007.
Johal said Monday she will appeal the board’s suspension, and “absolutely” believes her appeal will succeed.
Simpson said that if an appeal goes forward, the board will argue it is in the public interest that the businesses remain suspended until the matter is settled.
Anyone who has a pre-paid contract with Benisasia should contact the board, Simpson said, to be transferred to another funeral home or reimbursed.