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Quebec man upset after he finds his father's unauthorized obituary on site

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Some within the funeral home and mortuary services industries in Quebec say they are frustrated with an online obituary site that publishes death notices from public information posted on the internet.

They allege the site is doing so without consent from the families.

When Jimmy Jolicoeur's father, Patrice, died on Feb. 10 after choosing medically assisted death, his family published an obituary notice at Groupe Garneau Thantologues in Lévis, Que.

A few days later, Patrice Jolicoeur's obituary popped up on Echovita's site, "without any authorization from us, from our family," according to Jimmy.

"First of all, we were shocked," he told CTV News. "We're not very happy with the situation because it's really not a good time to be dealing with this thing."

Jimmy is not alone.

There are five complaints on the Better Business Bureau from families claiming Echovita published their loved one's obituaries without authorization, used inaccurate information, created Facebook pages and sold flowers and other memorial products the family did not ask for.

"The site stole an official obituary and sells flowers and other items not related to the requests of the family. I just received the official obituary and realized the $30 I spent on the Echovita was on a fake obituary," reads one complaint.

Echovita owner Pascal "Paco" Leclerc insists the site simply "makes it easier to publish public obituaries on the internet" and the Quebec City-based company "operates in full compliance with current regulations."

Leclerc originally agreed to an interview with CTV News "to react and not let my reputation be tarnished by the industry, which in fact seeks to make its competition disappear."

He later sent a statement and said he had no further comment to make.

Echovita responds to each Better Business Bureau complaint, saying the company can process full refunds but the items the company sells are "real and as advertised."

For Jimmy, he believes that selling flowers or virtual candles in addition to republishing his father's obituary is a crime, whether or not it's technically legal.

"What we're saying is that, first of all, we were robbed," he said. "We were robbed of my father's life."

Virtual candles cost between $7.99 for one month to $24.99 for eternity on Echovita's site.

Jimmy says he takes particular offence to the site selling candles and flowers for his father, who chose two organizations to donate to -- the Cancer Research Society and Le Grenier Food Counter -- in lieu of flowers.

"A virtual candle doesn't mean anything to anyone," said Jimmy. "There are people who buy these virtual candles. So, one way or another, it's theft. Not to mention not having us give our consent to sell those types of gadgets."

Marie Ève Garneau, the funeral director and general manager at the home where Patrice Jolicoeur's service was held, said funeral homes also believe the site is exploiting families and friends of loved ones.

"We don't like the fact that the families are not even aware of this. According to us, this is not really legit since you're kind of using a time where people are very vulnerable and you're taking advantage of it," she said, adding that multiple families have complained to her that an obituary, sometimes with erroneous information, was published on Echovita without consent.

Echovita is not Leclerc's first foray into the online obituary business.

A federal judge ruled that a company he was involved with, Afterlife, was in breach of copyright laws in 2019 and ordered to pay $20,000 in a class-action lawsuit. 

In response to a Better Business Bureau complaint, Echovita said "when obituaries are posted on the internet, we further share the basic facts only in a death notice format to inform society of who has passed away, which is completely legal."

For the Jolicoeur family, having their obituary reprinted is offensive.

"It's not just my father, it's not just us who are being robbed, it's thousands and thousands of Quebecers who are having the life of a loved one stolen and who have lost the link or who have lost responsibility or who have given no agreement on disclosure to the broadcasting of that death notice," he said.

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