Wives of lost miners to get rest of survivor benefits
© Nova Scotia Government Archives.
A group of widows of miners killed in Springhill has finally won a 14-year campaign to have their full survivors benefits reimbursed by the province. Shirley Stone's husband, Victor Henwood, was killed in the 1956 mine explosion.
AMHERST – Shirley Shore still remembers the day she lost her husband in the Springhill mines.
She was 17 and her husband, Victor Henwood, was just 21 when he went underground for the last time on Nov. 1, 1956. Her husband was one of 39 miners killed when an explosion ripped through the Number 4 mine.
For many years, she and other widows of lost miners have been lobbying the province to reimburse widows’ benefits they lost nearly 30 years ago.
“I’m just numb,” Shore said upon learning the province has decided to reimburse widows’ benefits since 2009 for those with spouses who died on the job. “I am stunned right now, it hasn’t sunk in. It’s been a long, long time and in fact I had given up. I really didn’t know anyone was still working on this.”
Shore, who is now 74, left Springhill with her parents soon after the mine explosion to live in Montreal. She would later remarry and move to the Greenwood area.
Widows whose spouses died before 1985 and who subsequently remarried were stripped of their survivor benefits. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling changed the parameters in 1999 and Nova Scotia changed its legislation so remarried women continued to review their survivor benefits, retroactive to the date of their remarriages. Benefits for women who remarried before 1985 were only retroactive to 1999, meaning they lost 14 years of benefits.
Deputy Premier Frank Corbett announced Friday that changes to the Workers Compensation Act will ensure those also get full retroactive benefits.
Veteran Liberal MLA Leo Glavine has been lobbying the province to do the right thing since he was elected in 2003. He said he was spurred into action after a visit from Shore.
Glavine first introduced legislation to reimburse the benefits in 2005 and re-introduced the bill five times since then. He’s pleased the government has finally acted.
“These women suffered terrible loss – some losing husbands in the Springhill mining disaster, some in other industrial accidents,” Glavine said. “Unfortunately, a number of widows waiting for benefits have since passed away. It has been a long road to this legislation.”
Glavine said he is disappointed it took the existing government four years to act, saying Corbett supported his legislation when in opposition in 2007.
The Liberal MLA said there are only about 35 Springhill widows remaining and just over a hundred widows in the province. He said 30 to 40 have died in recent years.
Shore, who has battled several health issues in recent years, said the money will come in handy with medical bills and other expenses.