Family of lost fisherman denied survivor's benefit because he had no dependants

·2 min read
The Chief William Saulis scallop fishing vessel is pictured here in November 2020. (Katherine Bickford - image credit)
The Chief William Saulis scallop fishing vessel is pictured here in November 2020. (Katherine Bickford - image credit)

The mother of a fisherman who died when his scallop boat sank says she was shocked to learn his family won't receive an accidental death benefit because he was single and had no children.

Aaron Cogswell, 29, was one of six men who died when the Chief William Saulis sank off the coast of Delaps Cove, N.S., in December. His body has not been found.

His mother, Lori Phillips, said she recently learned that the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia will not pay the $15,000 lump sum survivor's benefit to the family.

"What bothers me is there's six people that died doing the same job," she said.

"A survivor is a survivor — if it's a wife or if it's a mother, or even a father. You can't say one's pain and grief is more than the others."

Phillips said she asked the board to put the denial in writing, so she knew exactly why she didn't receive the money. Instead, she said she received instructions to file an appeal.

The six men known to have been on board the Chief William Saulis. Top row, from left: Captain Charles Roberts, Aaron Cogswell, Dan Forbes. Bottom row, from left: Eugene Francis, Michael Drake and Leonard Gabriel.
The six men known to have been on board the Chief William Saulis. Top row, from left: Captain Charles Roberts, Aaron Cogswell, Dan Forbes. Bottom row, from left: Eugene Francis, Michael Drake and Leonard Gabriel.(Facebook/CBC)

"The company paid the same premiums for each employee on that boat," she said. "Any single man or woman that is going to go fishing, risking their lives, they should not be going on the boat because there's no coverage for them."

Phillips is working with John Lohr, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Kings North. He said he wrote to the board and Lena Diab, the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act, as soon as he learned Phillips was being denied.

"I'm very disappointed. It isn't even a lot of money," Lohr said. "I think it's an oversight in the way the rules of WCB [Workers' Compensation Board] were written."

Lohr says the survivor's benefit should be redefined.
Lohr says the survivor's benefit should be redefined. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Lohr asked Diab about the rule during question period Thursday. Diab offered her sympathies to the families and said she's ordered the department to review the file.

Phillips said she was also denied a $4,000 funeral benefit from the board because the service was covered by donations from the public, and she was required to submit receipts.

She said her son's employer paid into the plan for years, and where it stands now, she won't receive a nickel for his accidental death.

"They might think he's worthless, but to me he's not," she said. "The whole crew was worth something."

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