Groups organizing an afternoon protest today in the Downtown Eastside say the suspension endangers the health and safety of those who rely on the mail to receive paycheques and social disability and assistance.

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Canada Post has temporarily resumed delivery to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside more than a month after it stopped bringing mail to a two-block area where it says workers had safety concerns.

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However, members of a group that helped organize a rally calling for the full resumption of mail delivery on Tuesday say they haven’t received any details about those safety concerns or when service will return for good.

Hannah Dempsey, an organizer with the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition, says residents and neighborhood groups weren’t informed when service was suspended on March 23 and they only realized deliveries might be resuming when they saw postal workers in the area on Tuesday.

Dempsey says the suspension puts people’s lives at risk, because many residents rely on monthly social assistance checks.

Canada Post delivery workers meet on E. Hastings St. as workers have complained of unsafe conditions and refused to deliver mail in the downtown eastside.  Nick Procaylo photo.
Canada Post delivery workers meet on E. Hastings St. as workers have complained of unsafe conditions and refused to deliver mail in the downtown eastside. Nick Procaylo photo. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Residents feel shut out of the conversation, Dempsey says, and they should be included in discussions about how to resume deliveries for good.

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A statement from Canada Post says it understands concerns about the importance of mail delivery, and it’s working hard to provide service while working on a permanent solution. The statement says carriers would be “attempting to resume delivery” in the area from Tuesday to Friday this week, but didn’t say whether delivery would continue beyond that.

The Crown corporation says it would extend opening hours of a postal facility 14 blocks away, where residents have been picking up their mail, and it will now open from 10 am to 6 pm

Canada Post says residents need to show government-issued identification at the facility, but that poses a significant barrier for many residents, including those with mobility challenges, says Elsa Boyd, who is also with Our Homes Can’t Wait.

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The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act are meant to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, Boyd notes.

The suspension has affected an estimated 550-to-600 residents, Boyd says.

“I can’t really think of another place in the city that one incident would result in 600 other people’s mail getting cut off,” she says. “There’s been no incident that we’re aware of.”

Several dozen protestors blocked E. Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC Tuesday, April 26, 2022 to protest Canada Post's decision to stop mail delivery in the 100-block E. Hastings.
Several dozen protestors blocked E. Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC Tuesday, April 26, 2022 to protest Canada Post’s decision to stop mail delivery in the 100-block E. Hastings. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Canada Post hasn’t said what exactly triggered the safety concerns for its carriers. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the safety concerns.

Boyd says members of Our Homes Can’t Wait, who include residents and supporters of the DTES, met recently with union representatives and they’re hoping to work with the union on a solution.

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When Canada Post suspended mail delivery to the neighborhood in 2020 over concerns about COVID-19, Boyd says the union pushed to figure out how to resume service.

“They said daily mail delivery is a human right and we need to get it back in the Downtown Eastside, and they were able to help us get that decision reversed,” Boyd says of the suspension in the early days of the pandemic. “A lot of the postal workers, we know that they’re our allies. They know that Downtown Eastside residents deserve mail, and that a lot of important things are happening through the mail.”


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