Some Ontario funeral homes may be “cashing in” on grief


by Brandon Mayer
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An Ontario funeral home came under fire recently, after a concerned family contacted Go Public – an investigative journalism subsidiary of CBC News whose stories are generated by reports from citizens. The family was concerned by what they described as a marketing company attempting to “cash in” on grieving families.

Mackey Funeral Home in Lindsay, northeast of Toronto, was at the centre of the story after a customer complained that the marketing company which runs their website had been inserting links for family members to purchase memorial trees in honour of their lost loved ones. The Kingston-based marketing company, called Frontrunner, refused to reveal the cost of the tree saplings, but the report from CBC News notes an estimated cost of between 20 cents and five dollars, yet grieving families were being charged $39.95 per sapling.

The CBC News report went on to state that the purchase links were eventually removed from the Mackey Funeral Home website by Frontrunner, though the company denied any wrongdoing.

A recent publication by the Times highlighted how local funeral home chain Hulse, Playfair & McGarry has been planting memorial tree saplings in honour of their clients’ lost loved ones for over 20 years, resulting in a “living legacy” of 30,000 trees. Given the confusion arising from the recent CBC report, the Times reached out to Sharon McGarry, President of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, for clarification.

“It has been very well received,” Sharon said of the local program, which is run through a partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF). Hulse, Playfair & McGarry covers the cost of their local memorial tree planting initiative – it is entirely free to the grieving families, meaning it is run very differently from the controversial happenings at Mackey Funeral Home, where families were being charged prices that presumably resulted in large profit margins for the vendors and the marketing company responsible for the advertising links.

Sharon highlighted some other charitable initiatives that show Hulse, Playfair & McGarry’s commitment to the local communities it serves. For example, in the North Grenville area, the company helps out with Christmas hampers, Community Living, the Beth Donovan Hospice, and the Kemptville District Hospital. “Giving back is really important to us, and that’s the direction we come from,” Sharon told the Times.

Sharon revealed that Hulse, Playfair & McGarry is anticipating working even more closely with the RVCF in the near future, stating that the organization does “wonderful work,” and that she feels it is important for them to receive support. She declined to comment on what had been going on at Mackey Funeral Home, stating that it was not her place to form an opinion without knowing all of the facts.

The original CBC Go Public story can be found at


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