Lacombe resident Darlene Villeneuve dedicated her life to raising her five children but when she passed away unexpectedly this summer, she didn’t qualify for a death benefit from the federal government’s Canada Pension Plan.
Her son Michael Villeneuve said his mother never worked outside of the home, instead dedicating her time to her children — four boys and one girl — and her 19 grandchildren.
Known as “Dr. Darlene” to the family, she was always the one to fix up the scrapes, bumps and bruises, ready with Band-Aids.
Michael wants to know why families of stay-at-home moms aren’t eligible for the death benefit.
“I want (the government) to recognize that dedicated housewives should be recognized and qualify for death benefits,” Michael said.
His parents met as teenagers in Meadow Lake, Sask. His father Ralph Villeneuve was known as a catch, being a handsome blue-eyed cowboy, and admired by all of the girls in town. But Ralph only had eyes for Darlene and the two married when Ralph was 18 and Darlene was just 16.
The couple had 51 happy years of marriage, with Ralph, now 70, doing everything from working for the military to being employed as a labourer and finally as a heavy machine operator in the oil industry in British Columbia.
It was a team effort. As Ralph worked outside the home, Darlene worked in the home, ensuring her children were raised properly, always having a meal on the table, doing their laundry and always being there to listen to them.
Michael said as his father put in 48 years of hard work, contributing to the government by paying taxes, employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan and other deductions. He never collected employment insurance or welfare of any kind.
Michael said his father estimates he contributed $1 million in deductions and taxes to one form of government or another.
And Michael feels his mother’s contributions to society are immeasurable.
Yet when she died of lung cancer on July 28 at age 67, he was told that because his mother never worked outside the home, the $2,500 Canada Pension Plan death benefit would not be provided to help defray the costs of her funeral.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” said Michael. “It’s just not fair.”
He wants other families to know that they will be out of luck for help from the federal government if they are in a similar situation.
“(My father) is not a fan of government or the system. He has paid into it, but has received nothing in return,” Michael said.
No one was available from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to speak on the issue. A spokesperson emailed the following to the Advocate:
“The death benefit is a one-time payment to, or on behalf of, the estate of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor. If there is no estate, the person responsible for the funeral expenses, the surviving spouse or common-law partner, or the next of kin may be eligible. The deceased individual must have made contributions to the Canada Pension Plan in order for the CPP death benefit to be payable.”