Nova Scotia

Eastern Passage couple dealing with terminal cancer denied EI benefits

An Eastern Passage couple dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis say the current system of compassionate-care employment insurance needs to change.

Federal commitment to revamp EI may not come soon enough for family

Bet Taylor-Dauphinee and Clyde Dauphinee are dealing with his diagnosis of terminal cancer. (Shaina Luck)

An Eastern Passage, N.S., couple dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis say the current system of compassionate-care employment insurance needs to change. 

Their concern comes as the government is revamping the employment insurance system, but it may not come soon enough for Clyde Dauphinee and Bet Taylor-Dauphinee.

Dauphinee was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, which spread to his lungs. He is now home on palliative care, and in late May Taylor-Dauphinee left her part-time job to care for him. 

Taylor-Dauphinee applied for compassionate-care benefits the day after leaving work, but recently learned she was not eligible. She had accumulated 527 working hours in the past year, and the government requires 600 hours. 

"I would not have taken the leave had I not felt it was necessary to take it at the time. The furthest thing from my mind was to look at how many hours I had earned," she said.  

After being denied, Taylor-Dauphinee called Service Canada and her MP's office. She was angered at their suggestion that she go back to work for the two months it would take to qualify. She feels Dauphinee does not have that time. In mid-May, doctors estimated he had two months.  

EI changes coming

In Dec. 2015, the federal government extended the length of time people can receive compassionate-care benefits from six weeks to 26 weeks. At that time MaryAnn Mihychuk, the minister of Employment, said the government would rework the program this year, but she did not reveal any details.

The government has said it will introduce new EI rules this month. But it's unclear what changes would be made to compassionate care. 

Change likely too late

Consultations about improving the EI care giving benefit will be held "in the coming months," Service Canada spokesperson Evelyne Wildgoose Labrie said in an email statement Thursday evening. 

Taylor-Dauphinee thinks any change may come too late for her and her husband. 

"If I've paid into EI and at some point need to access that, if I didn't qualify with 600 hours ... could I not access some of that benefit, if not the full amount?" 

Day by day

Dauphinee says he's taking things day by day and that being able to be home with his wife has been "incredible."

"She does it all. I can't say enough about it," he said.  

The couple are now living off their savings, and trying to stay positive about Dauphinee's health. 

"So it's deteriorating somewhat, but the attitude is: I have each day," he said. 

Taylor-Dauphinee says she will not be going back to work for now. 

"My priority right now is being with Clyde," she said. "We all need money to live. That's a given. However, at this point in my life, with both of us, money is not what's important here. It's a human life."

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca