Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Say goodbye to home delivery

North Winnipeg among first to lose door-to-door service

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Val Surbey, with her son, Timothy, retrieves letters from their mailbox. That will change this fall when Canada Post stops home delivery in her neighbourhood.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Val Surbey, with her son, Timothy, retrieves letters from their mailbox. That will change this fall when Canada Post stops home delivery in her neighbourhood. Photo Store

Residents of one of the first neighbourhoods in Canada to lose home mail delivery shook their heads at the news Thursday.

"I'm not sure why they picked us to be first," said Val Surbey, who lives in the Maples.

A total of 12,500 addresses in north Winnipeg, including hers, will lose their home mail delivery this fall as Canada Post moves to community mailboxes.

The areas first affected, those with postal codes that start with R2P and R2V, will include sections of the Maples, West Kildonan and the North End.

In West Kildonan, Marie Dnisteransky said she was surprised Canada Post was picking a neighbourhood with an older population to cut home delivery first.

"There's an older demographic," she said while waiting for her mother to do her banking Thursday at Northgate Shopping Centre. "I worked at (nearby) Garden City mall for three years -- the customers were mostly seniors." Many, like her mom, still live in their homes and cutting off home delivery will be a challenge, she said.

"My mother is a senior," she said. "I would have to take care of her mail." Others don't have someone close by to help.

Irene Ferenczi, 70, said she's worried about getting to a community mailbox if she develops mobility issues as she ages.

"I know in a couple of years I may not be able to."

Getting safely to community mailboxes may be difficult for people who rely on wheelchairs and walkers to get around, said Surbey, the president of Community Living Manitoba.

"It probably will be -- when you watch people in a wheelchair having to ride on the road because the sidewalk is inaccessible in winter." She sees community mailboxes now in neighbouring Seven Oaks and worries. "They're fairly far away from residences."

Thursday, most people approached by the Free Press in the affected areas seemed resigned to the loss of home delivery.

"If it's going to happen, it's going to happen," said a senior shovelling his snowy driveway, who didn't want his name published. "What are you going to do?"

Across Canada, 10 other centres will start collecting mail at community boxes this fall as Canada Post begins its move to end door-to-door delivery. It's the first stage of a five-year plan announced in December and will involve about 100,000 addresses.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities said people can complain to their MPs if they want to change the legislation that governs Canada Post.

For now, as long as the Crown corporation is being run as a for-profit business and home delivery is doomed, the council will push for well-designed and well-located community mailboxes, said Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator for the council.

In a statement from Canada Post Thursday, the Crown corporation said "...it understands that some seniors and Canadians with disabilities may not be able to get to their community mailbox, and it is committed to ensuring that no one is left behind from accessing the mail service.

"As it transitions existing neighbourhoods like these, it may need to offer additional solutions for people with significant mobility challenges, who lack viable alternatives and would face unacceptable hardship. 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."

Two weeks ago, the council met with Deepak Chopra, CEO of Canada Post.

"We had a fairly lengthy conversation about concerns around access and the loss of a service that has worked for people, particularly in downtown cores," said Beachell. That's where the majority of people with disabilities live, he said.

"Have a look outside in Winnipeg today -- getting to your community mailbox might be a challenge." Community mailboxes in malls and drugstores might work for those with limited mobility, he said. "Maybe they should be looking at choices for people on where to pick up mail," said Beachell.

"You could pick up your drugs, pick up your mail in one trip," he said.

"We want to ensure solutions go forward that do not create new barriers and that everything possible is done to ensure people have access to get their mail," he said.

The Winnipeg local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers released a statement Thursday criticizing the cuts in north Winnipeg.

"This is a poor and senseless plan, and we will work with affected residents in Winnipeg to fight it every step of the way," said Ben Zorn, president of the Winnipeg local.

carol.sanders@freeoress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2014 B1

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