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Court Challenge Launched to Save Mail Home Delivery

Unions, seniors and those with disabilities ready to fight, but Canada Post says it has a plan.

Jeremy Nuttall 16 Oct 2014TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

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More community mailboxes like these may put seniors and people with disabilities at risk, say advocates. Mailbox photo via Shutterstock.

A collection of seniors' groups, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and organizations representing people with disabilities say they intend to launch a legal challenge against Canada Post's decision to end home delivery.

About five million Canadian homes will have their home delivery ended by 2019 with an aim to eventually eliminate it completely. Currently two thirds of Canadian addresses don't have home service.

At a media conference in Ottawa, the group said the elderly and people with disabilities will be adversely affected by the end of home delivery and accused Canada Post of not studying or debating the decision before taking it.

It also stressed businesses are not going to be losing door-to-door delivery, only homes.

The court challenge will be filed under the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Federal Court.

The group argues the decision to end such service does not lay with Canada Post, but with Parliament, and wants the court to stop the plan.

The group's lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo said the choice to end home delivery seems to have "come out of the blue" and had no forethought.

"We had a massive review of the post office commissioned by the government in 2008, there was no mention whatever of the elimination of home delivery," Cavalluzzo said. "I would ask Canada Post, 'What studies were you relying on? Did you even take into account the interests of disabled and senior Canadians?' I don't think they did."

At the mercy of the elements

The group said being forced to retrieve mail from community boxes can put seniors and people with disabilities at risk to the elements and even criminals.

Advocates say many people with disabilities choose to live in cities to have easier access to services, home delivery mail included.

Parts of Canada can become lethally cold in winter, and Dave Nelson of the Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition said he foresees issues with people getting their mail in a timely way, "if at all," once the the phase-out is completed.

"Disability groups should start to advocate for something… that either the mail service can do or private companies can do," Nelson said, adding such a delivery service should be subsidized.

Nelson said he would be raising the issue at a national conference on disabilities in Calgary next week.

'We've never left anybody behind': Canada Post

Private mail home delivery services have sprouted up since the announcement that home delivery would be phased out was made, with some reports citing costs of a minimum $20 per month for delivery a few days per week.

But Canada Post will not be subsidizing anyone's delivery, according to Anick Losier, media relations director at the Crown corporation.

Losier said Canada Post has been helping people without home delivery and disabilities get their mail for years and plans to continue doing so.

"We've never left anybody behind," she said. "We've taken that experience, plus we've added a number of new solutions."

Those solutions include ensuring people in wheelchairs have a box lower to the ground on community mailboxes or having mail forwarded to friends or family who can then deliver it.

She said people who are isolated without any other way to retrieve their mail could have it dropped off by Canada Post once a week.

"Everybody's unique," Losier said.

Counter to Cavalluzzo's allegation, Losier said human rights groups and organizations representing the disabled were consulted on the change, though she could not provide a list of those involved.

Women's groups concerned

The idea of community mailboxes also has some women's advocates concerned.

Laura Track of West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund said the possibility of women fleeing domestic abuse being located by their abusers staking out community mailboxes is possible.

Track said women who have fled abusive partners are most at risk in the weeks after leaving their situation.

"That would be the time an abuser could be looking for them, and having to pick up their mail from a centralized location in public could very well put them at risk," Track said.

Regardless, Canada Post said it is confident its plan will hold up to the scrutiny of the court and that the changes must be made for the financial viability of the service.

Cavalluzzo said after a few more affidavits are submitted, the case will be filed in court.  [Tyee]

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