Canada Post Cuts Will Exacerbate Inequality

by | July 20, 2014
filed under Can-Con

canadapostIn December, Canada Post announced they would be replacing door-to-door home delivery with community mailboxes for over five million Canadians. Canada Post claims home delivery is not profitable and it’s all our fault for using the internet.

Not only will 8,000 Canada Post employees lose their jobs, but it’s unclear where the community “super-boxes” will be installed, and more importantly, how many people will be able to receive their mail.

In response to criticism that the super-boxes would exclude many seniors, particularly ones with mobility issues, Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said, “We’ll find ways to make the community mailbox accessible. We’ll find ways to provide additional keys, so caregivers who come and help with the other things that are part of their day-to-day life, mail service can be part of that.”

The assumption here is that seniors have caregivers in the first place. According to a statement released by advocacy group CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons):

“People who do not have family or caregivers will be denied access to necessary communications — whether bills or more important to them, letters from family. Before instituting such wide-ranging changes, some provision must be made for those who actually still value the postal service and rely on it heavily.”

CARP vice-president Susan Eng said, “For some people, this mail service is an essential service. and if (Canada Post is) crying poor, then where are their priorities? Is it to get the senior her pension cheque to her home, so that she doesn’t have to beg a friend to get it for her, which erodes her independence? Or, (is it) to make sure that MPs get to send their propaganda to us?”

Eng is referring to franking, or free parliamentary mail privileges. MPs can send up to four flyers free of charge to their constituents every year. It’s estimated that in 2013, Canada Post delivered six million franked letters from MPs. Canada Post has no plans to change this policy.

Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra has said, “We know it will cause hardship to some Canadians as they transition from one mode of delivery to another. We’ll be very thoughtful and sensitive to those needs and we have processes in place to accommodate those situations where it’s a case of hardship.”

What this accommodation will look like is unclear. What is clear is that women will be disproportionately effected. According to Statistics Canada, women have a higher prevalence of disability in almost all age groups. Among Canadians 75 and older 44.5% of women reported a disability compared to 39.8% of men. Women are more likely than men to have an activity limitation. Approximately 1.7 million Canadian women have a long-term health condition or problem that has made it difficult for them to function normally in everyday life.

Seniors, people with disabilities and single parents in high density neighbourhoods, all of whom are statistically more likely to be women, will be further marginalized by these cuts. Trying to make your way to a community mailbox in winter when you’re juggling a small child, bags of groceries, backpack, and an assistive device is going to be incredibly challenging.

As a disabled person in a sparsely populated suburb, I do most of my shopping online and receive bills, subscriptions and sometimes actual letters from friends who live far away in the mail box. Part of my disability is agoraphobia. Knowing that this connection with the outside world is going to be taken away from me is deeply distressing.

Canada Post claims the super-boxes will “better meet the needs of customers with a disability,” because individual mail compartments can be “allocated at an appropriate height.”

Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities Tony Dolan said, “it doesn’t matter how well you design the boxes if there’s snow all around it and you can’t get near it.”

Click here to send a message to your MP or download a window sign in support of Canada Post home mail delivery.

Photo in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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