Death certificates | “Absurd” deadlines denounced

Citizens had to wait three and a half months

To die officially, in Quebec, there are delays, a lot of delays.

It has been 79 working days – three and a half months – since the request for the death certificate of Vanessa Couture’s father was sent to the Director of Civil Status. And she still hasn’t received anything.

“If you try to call customer service, it says that all the agents are busy and to call back later,” she says about this organization which reports to the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity.

Denis Mercier, for his part, is trying to settle the estate of his mother, who died on January 31, 2024. The current delays, he denounces, “risk leading to financial losses for citizens and causing deadlines to be missed to produce the tax returns “.

The death certificate, he emphasizes, represents “the cornerstone for the settlement of an inheritance. With this document in hand, the person responsible for the liquidation can request will searches from the Chamber of Notaries and the Bar. We can then act everywhere, as much in financial institutions as with the Canada Revenue Agency or Revenu Québec. But if the death certificate from the civil registry does not arrive, nothing can move forward.”

As he has to settle a complicated inheritance, the delays in obtaining the death certificate were “a big thorn in his side” for him.

“It’s absurd that the civil registry takes so long to produce a death certificate,” he denounces.

But long live the Citizen’s Protector!

Aware that he is not the only Quebecer to experience such delays, Mr. Mercier contacted the Québec Ombudsman to complain. The Public Protector responded. Better still, he followed up closely.

And – coincidence or not – a few days after speaking to the Public Protector, he finally received the death certificate.

“I believe that the intervention of the Citizen Protector accelerated things. One thing is certain, the person responsible for my complaint was very efficient and provided excellent telephone follow-up with me. »

In November, The Press has already written to report the long delays to the Director of Civil Status, which occurred after the excesses already strongly criticized at the offices of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec.

Read the article “More than eight weeks waiting for death certificates”

At the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity, it was assured that a “five-axis action plan” had been put in place – a plan including increasing staff and “increasing the skills of people and increase in productivity. As of October 31, 2023, the deadline for registering deaths whose files are complete and compliant was 43.5 working days, we were told.

Since then, several readers have written to tell us that they too were waiting several weeks.

Catherine Poulin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity, affirms that the average time for compliant and complete files is still 43.5 days – right on the mark, therefore, with the statistics of October 31, 2023 – and that the Director of Civil Status aims for this to be reduced to 20 working days by December 31, 2024.

Additional resources “have currently been in training for two months,” adds Poulin, who specifies that “the treatment of death constitutes the most complex life event to register”.

Mme Poulin finally notes that 21,350 deaths were recorded during the first quarter of 2024, “which represents the quarter with the highest number of deaths since 2015”.

The age pyramid being what it is in Quebec, there will always be more deaths in the years to come. If the Civil Registry is not enough for the task, is the worst to be feared soon? The firm assures that no, that the 20 working days of waiting are and will remain the target.

Aware of the deadlines and government explanations, Marie-Soleil Tremblay, full professor at the National School of Public Administration specializing in governance and public finance, is surprised that “in 2024 we have not found a way to make it more optimal for such a routine procedure.”


Full professor at the National School of Public Administration Marie-Soleil Tremblay

Generally speaking, when there is this type of problem in an organization, before thinking about adding personnel, you must first see if you have optimized computerization.

While admitting that she does not have the fine details of working in the Civil Registry, she is also surprised that the employees are in training for so long.

Also, she wonders, in the event that certain death certificates are more difficult than others to settle (because they occurred abroad, perhaps?), she wonders to what extent the situations standards – an elderly person who died in hospital, for example – could not benefit from “simple and rapid treatment”.

Are the lines full? People are becoming more and more adept at internet searches, M Tremblay. When so many people are calling, any organization should analyze its forms and website to make sure everything is clear and clear.


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