The family of Crystal Machiskinic is remembering a mother, sister and daughter who died last Friday in her Regina home.

“She was 48 years old. She had some severe lung problems in the past year of her life,” said the sister of Machiskinic, Carrie Stonechild.

The family is having the funeral outside, in plus 30 degree heat in Stonechild’s backyard due to financial difficulties.

Machiskinic was part of the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) Program which is administered by the Ministry of Social Services and it covers some basic funeral costs.

Funding for funeral services for people on social assistance was cut during the province’s recent budget. It was then restored last week but the current flat fee was reduced from $3,850 to $2,100 as of July 1, 2017.

“We couldn’t arrange to have the funeral in a facility because we can’t afford it,” added Stonechild.

Stonechild says because of the timing of Machiskinic’s death happened on the Friday before the Canada Day long weekend, the family couldn’t reach anyone from Social Services until Tuesday.

“All they had to do was pick up that phone, make that call and tell us yes, they’re going to cover expenses,” said Stonechild.

In First Nation’s culture, Stonechild says the funeral rites need to be completed within four days.

“In our culture we have certain ceremonies that we do in those four days to send our loved ones into the spirit world. And not being able to do that, we’re very upset and hurt. We have feast food that has been sitting here all week. Too many days, a whole week, you know? We should have had her rested and done our ceremonies within those four days,” said Stonechild.

Stonechild admits there were other factors which contributed to the funeral’s delay but her frustration mounted when she finally reached someone from Social Services.

“A manager told my niece, Jade, Crystal’s daughter to, ‘get in line’ on the call centre phone. Another manager offered no condolences whatsoever, no, ‘I’m sorry, your sister passed,’ nothing like that and the said it’s not their fault; it was the long weekend. It was just a very rude tone in their voices,” said Stonechild.

“We understand how challenging it can be to make decisions on behalf of the family when a loved one has passed. We very much understand what this family is experiencing, and would like to offer our sincere condolences to this family for their loss,” said Jeff Reddekop with the Ministry of Social Services.

Reddekop says social services cannot comment on this specific case due to the privacy legislation but when instances like this happen, it contacts the family the next business day, which in this case was Tuesday.

Reddekop also adds that it has not received previous complaints of their practices interfering with a family’s ability to make funeral arrangements while respecting cultural or religious practices.

“We’ve had the procedure for many years and its proved effective in dealing with requests for support and we found it to be helpful and it seems to serve families in need fairly well,” added Reddekop.

“I know it was the long weekend but at times like that, they should have backup people,” said Stonechild.

Stonechild says this isn’t the first time she has had this kind of experience with social services during losing a loved one. She will be writing a letter of complaint to the province with the help of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry after the funeral. Machiskinic will be buried in the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery with her daughter.

“It hurts to have to talk to the media about this. Is this what it takes for somebody to wake up and respect our way? I don’t want this to happen to anybody else in the future.”