Canada’s first ‘body farm’ to open in Quebec

A scientific facility that will study dead bodies in conditions mimicking crime scenes is set to be built in Quebec this summer. 

Known as a “body farm,” the space for thanatology (the scientific study of death) research will be the first of its kind in Canada. 

Dr. Shari Forbes, a specialist in forensic thanatology, helped establish Australia’s first body farm in 2016 and will be leading research at the Bécancour, Que., facility. 

Forbes said a space that allows for Canada based studies will provide better research for police across the country trying to solve cases involving dead people. 

“Our climate is very different, and we know that the environment has a huge impact on the rate and process of decomposition,” she told the Timmins Daily Press.

There are ten body farms that have been established around the world: eight in the United States, one in Holland and one in Australia. 

Human corpses studied at the facility could be placed in a trunk of a car or wrapped in anything from a bag to a duvet — or even a carpet. 

And they could be left there for many months or years as scientists determine the impact the Canadian climate has on their decomposition. 

Scientists will also look at how quickly human tissue is lost to flesh eating insects like beetles or blowflies. 

Discoveries from Canadian research on rotting corpses will allow police to identify a more precise time frame in which a person has died. With that information, they could then match bodies to missing person cases. 

Forbes said it would also allow police to more accurately link an individual to a crime. 

 “If we get (time of death) wrong it gives an offender a way of getting away with the crime,” she said.  

The facility in Bécancour will be surrounded in a heavily forested woodland area. 

Forbes said it will also be protected with a high security fence with barbed wires and CCTV camera. 

While Forbes has assured residents that odours from the decrepit bodies won’t travel more than 50 to 100 metres from the facility, she said those conducting research at the farm will definitely need to have a strong stomach. 

 “We just see the science,” she said. “We’re scientists and we recognize the value of our work, and so we just think about what we’re doing and who we’re helping — the police, and the victims and their families.”The first set of body farm donors are scheduled to arrive at the facility this fall.