The BAO’s continuing evolution is well-positioned for 2024

By Leith Coghlin, Chair,
BAO Board of Directors

Chair’s message

The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) enters its eighth year fulfilling its mandate to protect consumers in the province. 

2023 has seen a relentless tempo of work. An institution that wants to be successful in its mission must have the infrastructure to be successful.

Across so many domains, the BAO is building out success infrastructure with its people, systems, and processes.

I write this year-end summary with considerable confidence as consumers and our licensees are about to begin 2024.


This year marked the most intense build out of a new customer relationship management system. The Ontario Bereavement Information System (OBIS) as it has been named will launch in 2024. 

OBIS will automate tracking, data, reporting, and analytics into an effective “on-demand” system. The ability for the BAO to optimize and to streamline its responsiveness to consumers and situational awareness of what is going on in the BAO’s regulator sectors will align the BAO to current best practices among regulators.

The launch of OBIS fully implements one of the most significant recommendations that emerged from the Auditor General of Ontario’s 2020 Value-for-Money Audit of the BAO. 

Strategic focus that reflects our mandate 

Licensees need little reminder of the significant changes in consumer preferences and trends over the past eight years. They have been both profound and wide-ranging. 

Just as consumers continue to become better informed, and the impacts of the pandemic have altered expectations and routines, the BAO has recognized the need to adapt our regulatory philosophy and operational outcomes as well.

The board of directors will conduct a complete re-examination of its core anchoring vision in its strategic plan in 2024. Our sectors and stakeholders can anticipate what will be the most proactive and inclusive consultations that will better and fully inform the BAO into crafting a medium and long term vision that could be assessed as relevant, reasonable, responsive, and attainable. 

Financial stability and a regulator built to scale 

A substantive conclusion of the 2020 Value-for-Money Audit of the BAO by the Auditor General revealed our operations were not adequately “right-sized” to possess the depth and scale necessary to protect consumers across our large and diverse province.

The BAO board recognizes that fee changes this year evoked many discussions. But we were gratified in the broad recognition across our regulated sectors that our next generation of operations required a rebalancing.

For the wide understanding and support – thank you.

I can report that the long-term viability of the BAO is better secured and sustainable. Any further growth can be done without drastic, far-reaching financial impositions on consumers or licensees. 

Our consumer protection Compensation Fund is funded and robust. The Compensation Fund has been responsive such that the relief provided from it to consumers has been accurate, prompt, and rare. These realities are a true reflection of the high levels of dedication and professional conduct by our licensees. 

Saluting noteworthy performance and service 

First and foremost, the board of directors and I salute our licensees. The work you do, day in and day out, is among the most difficult in the province. The care, ethics, and professional conduct exhibited across our regulated sectors reflects the highest credit to the families and communities you serve.

The BAO, like all organizations, experiences change in its composition. Our board of directors is no different. In 2023, we thanked three directors for their invaluable contributions to the BAO:

  • Laurie Macdonald, Executive Director of the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority, who first joined the BAO board in 2017, was re-elected for a second term in 2020 and served on BAO Board committees including Compensation Fund, and as the Chair of Governance and Nominations; 
  • Jay O’Neill, CEO and Registrar of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, who joined the BAO board in 2018, was re-elected for a second term in 2020 and served on several board committees including as the Chair of Audit, Risk and Finance; 
  • Scott Miller, President of Funeral in Ottawa, joined the board in 2020 and served as the BAO Board Secretary in 2022-23. Scott was a member of the predecessor organization the Board of Funeral Services, where he held positions of Chair and member of several committees. With the BAO, he has served as the committee Chair of Funeral & Transfer Services Advisory, the Compensation Fund, and as a member of Governance and Nominations. 

Without question none of BAO’s important work could have been achieved without our dedicated staff. 

Leadership in 2023 was ably provided by interim Chief Executive Officer and Registrar Jim Cassimatis. His engagement from the outset and skillful navigation during this demanding year were needed and successful.

Across the entire BAO, all staff were instrumental in our efforts from inspections and financial compliance to public complaints and licensee support. Our internal departments’ diligence allowed for our public-facing and outward operating elements to reach broader than ever before. All of this could not have been done without each member.

May I close with our sincere wishes for a safe and restful holiday season and for every success in 2024. 

(Read the Interim CEO/Registrar’s year-end message here.)