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Mailbox shift rouses fears at city hall

A community mailbox recently targeted by mail thieves in Chilliwack. A Richmond City Hall report notes identity theft as one concern in Canada Post’s shift away from door-to-door delivery.   - Jenna Hauck / Black Press
A community mailbox recently targeted by mail thieves in Chilliwack. A Richmond City Hall report notes identity theft as one concern in Canada Post’s shift away from door-to-door delivery.
— image credit: Jenna Hauck / Black Press

Canada Post's authority to install community mailboxes in established neighbourhoods without municipal approval is prompting concerns from Richmond City Hall.

The federal Crown corporation is phasing out door-to-door delivery in urban centres over the next five years in favour of community mailboxes—a service already in place in newer neighbourhoods.

The fact the corporation can set up the mailboxes without consulting local government—an authority granted under the Canada Post Corporation Act—is just one concern laid out in a new staff report, triggered by a similar brief from the City of Burnaby.

"The proposed elimination of home delivery mail service by Canada Post has numerous community impacts, which warrant further discussion and attention before implementation," said Amarjeet Rattan, director of the city's intergovernmental relations and protocol unit, in a report to a council committee yesterday.

More mailbox locations could mean greater legal liability for municipalities, and brings the potential for mail theft and limited access for people with mobility challenges. A lack of consultation has also caught the city's attention.

Richmond already has 180 community mailboxes, the locations of which were determined with assistance from city hall.

In the last two years, 19 police reports have been filed related to Canada Post mailboxes in Richmond, for calls such as mail theft and suspicious activity, according to the city.

"Although RCMP have reported a relatively insignificant number of incidents in Richmond to date, the increase in population and the increase in community mailboxes may lead to more issues such as vandalism, theft, traffic concerns, litter and hardship for the most vulnerable," noted Rattan.

Staff are recommending council send a letter to federal Minister of Transportation Lisa Raitt to outline the city's concerns.

Canada Post meanwhile has pledged to collect feedback from residents and work with municipalities on determining suitable locations for the mailboxes. It has also promised to ensure "no one is left behind" from accessing mail.

"Canada Post will seek input from the various communities that best know the challenges facing people with mobility issues and deploy new solutions before the conversion occurs," according to a recent Canada Post news release.

Coun. Derek Dang, chair of council's community safety committee, which discussed the matter yesterday, noted Canada Post has years of experience with community mailbox delivery.

"Newer developments have been on this model for a while now," he said. "I think the past experience have been mostly positive, and it saves the corporation money."

Dang said he assumes common sense will be used in choosing mailbox locations.

"Obviously you want to make sure that the government is aware that there could be some pitfalls to any of these whenever you do a retrofit for established neighbourhoods."

In February Canada Post announced the first group of cities—none in B.C.—that will move to community mailboxes beginning this fall. Residents are being invited to tell Canada Post their "priorities and preferences" through its website. The corporation says the information "will factor into our planning of the transition in your community."

Community mailbox delivery

•Canada Post announced Dec. 11, 2013 a five-year transition to community mailbox delivery across the country.

•Delivery to approximately five million Canadian addresses that still have door-to-door service will be shifted to community mailboxes. There will be no change in delivery for apartments with a central mailbox, rural customers with a driveway mailbox and businesses located in so-called "business corridors."

•The shift is expected to save Canada Post up to $500 million per year. No jobs will be cut, but up to 8,000 positions will be eliminated through attrition.

•Canada Post will still attempt delivery at the door of parcels too large to fit in the community mailbox, and for parcels that require a signature.

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