Nova Scotia

Closed Cape Breton funeral home has reimbursed most prepaid clients

A Sydney funeral home which closed its doors after a suspicious fire in February has paid back most of the money it owed to clients, Service Nova Scotia says.

S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home owed about $123K in prepaid funeral contracts to 42 clients

Service Nova Scotia confirmed that S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home has refunded most clients who paid in advance for funeral arrangements. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

A Sydney, N.S., funeral home which closed its doors after a suspicious fire in February has paid back most of the money it owed to clients, Service Nova Scotia says.

S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home surrendered its licence, which was officially cancelled last week. About 42 people had prepaid funeral contracts with the company, worth about $123,000.

Service Nova Scotia, which regulates the funeral industry in the province, has confirmed that Chants has refunded $70,000 directly to clients.

The department also received a cheque for close to $50,000 to be applied to the outstanding amount, Service Nova Scotia spokesperson MarlaMacInnis said in an email.

"Once this cheque is deposited into trust, Service Nova Scotia will work to reimburse the remaining purchasers directly," she said.

"There is an additional $3,100 still owing by the funeral home and Service Nova Scotia is working with the funeral home to receive payment, and has no reason to believe it will not be forthcoming."

The Sydney, N.S., funeral home was damaged by fire in February, and will not reopen. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

In 2018, the funeral home's licence to sell pre-arranged funeral plans was suspended for six months and its ability to sell prearranged funeral plans permanently revoked, after it was discovered that some prepaid funds were not being held in trust.

Cape Breton Regional Police are currently investigating a complaint of fraud against the business that was initiated by Service Nova Scotia. The complaint came just weeks after the funeral home's licence was suspended following the February fire.

The Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which oversees the conduct of industry members, says it was notified by Sheldon Chant's lawyer that he intends to surrender his personal licences.

That hasn't happened yet, board chair Adam Tipert said.

Owner Sheldon Chant has indicated he will surrender his funeral and embalmer's licences. (S.W. Chant & Son Funeral Home)

If he follows through, Tipert said, the board will be unable to sanction him, but the review of his conduct will not end.

He said any information the board receives about professional misconduct will be passed along to police and kept on file for future reference in the event Chant wants to practise again.

"Then the hearing would most likely be held at that time in regards to the allegations that are on their file until a conclusion can be reached of whether or not they could gain those licenses back or not," he said.

The board is also looking into allegations against staff at the funeral home.

"There are other files that are active within our board office right now that is part of this investigation, but I can't disclose who those files are," Tipert said.