Canada plans to phase out home delivery of mail
Post office plans to phase out home deliveries, a first for a G20 country
The Guardian in Ottawa
Labrador City in Eastern Canada is about as remote as it gets. This 7,000-strong mining community is surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes, with its nearest neighbour, the town of Baie-Comeau, an eight-hour drive away.
In winter - which lasts for eight months of the year - temperatures drop below minus-30 degrees Celsius and snow settles two metres high.
With the country's vast land mass, many Canadians live in far-flung areas such as Labrador City - making door-to-door mail deliveries a particular problem for postal authorities, and particularly expensive.
In an attempt to cut costs, Canada Post has announced plans to scrap all home deliveries, making Canada the first country in the Group of 20 to be without a door-to-door service. Once the cuts are implemented, only some business addresses will get post through the letter box - not even residents of cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will receive door-to-door mail.
Many Canadians already have to collect their post from communal collection points, often quite far from their homes. Beginning this autumn, Canada Post will roll out a five-year plan to institute community mailboxes across the country.
The company says the changes, which include a hike in the price of a stamp and the shedding of 8,000 jobs, are necessary because e-mail is taking over from letters as a way to communicate. But even before the cuts, Canada Post, a self-funding crown corporation, is still reporting huge profits, thanks to increasing parcel-mail delivery as a result of online shopping.
The company says the community mail boxes are more convenient for the delivery of large parcels that cannot fit through the letter box. But critics say they can be hard to access, particularly for the elderly or disabled, and especially in winter. The boxes have also been known to become magnets for thieves and vandals.
Canada Post boss Deepak Chopra defended the move, saying the boxes would give senior citizens some exercise. "Seniors are telling me that, 'I want to be healthy, I want to be active in my life'," Chopra said.
His comments angered older Canadians, including elderly-rights advocate Bill Van Gorder, 71. "It's putting another pressure on our older citizens who are trying very hard to stay in their own homes," Van Gorder said.
Susan Dixon, the mother of a young son with cerebral palsy, launched a change.org petition against the move that has so far garnered over 140,000 signatures. Dixon has challenged Canada Post bosses to spend a week in a wheelchair - and pick up their mail from community boxes.
The cuts have also been condemned by Canada's opposition parties and the mayors of Canada's biggest cities.
Labrador City's mayor, Karen Oldford, said that even if elderly and disabled people could get to the outdoor mailboxes, they would need to battle the snow.
Oldford said using e-mail as an excuse to cancel home deliveries in remote areas was nonsense. "There is still no broadband access in our communities," she said.