One man’s sit-in to save door-to-door mail

Occupation is part of Hamilton’s campaign to reverse Canada Post cuts

by Evan Johnston

Henry and supporters
Six days and counting: Henry Evans-Tenbrinke and some of his supporters
The campaign to save Door-to-Door mail delivery is heating up in Hamilton.

A coalition of union and non-union activists — led by members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 548 — have been leading door-knocking efforts over the last year, with Save Canada Post lawn signs continually going up in many areas of the city. Activists have been “welcoming” Conservative politicians when they arrive, and have recently been staging well-received outreach blitzes on bridges, waving signs and banners at passing motorists. Hamilton, you might have guessed, is not a city to go down without a fight.

The campaign has received a boost in recent months with Hamilton’s city council coming out strongly against the construction of the Super Mailboxes, and have amended a municipal bylaw in order to stall the process.

The amended bylaw requires Canada Post to obtain a $200 permit for each construction site, but Canada Post has signaled its intention to ignore it. Canada Post has even filed notice in Ontario Superior Court, asking for the bylaw to be declared invalid.

Henry’s sit-in
But while the city does battle with Canada Post in the courts, one Hamilton activist, Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, saw an opportunity to stop the process in its tracks. Henry decided to occupy a community mailbox construction site in the Hamilton mountain, and he is now entering his sixth day.

Here’s what Henry had to say about his decision, the support he’s been receiving, and what you can do to help.

Rankandfile.ca: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and about how you came to occupy the Canada Post mailbox site. Why are you so passionate about saving door-to-door mail delivery, and what made you decide to occupy it?

Henry: I’m on the executive of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville) and a CUPE retiree. I’ve been an activist most of my working life, and this includes a stint in Palestine as a peace activist and a Human Rights Observer with the International Solidarity Movement. I’m tired watching the Harper government destroy the Canada that I grew up in — a Canada that cared about those less fortunate and was also as a peace-keeping nation.

As for the Canada Post mailbox site, the Harper government seems to think that they can ride roughshod over Canadians with impunity, and I felt it was time to stand up to them and show them that Canadians have had enough. I’m concerned about the effect the decision to end door-to-door delivery will have on seniors and people with disabilities, who will either not be able to gather their mail or will have great difficulty doing so.

RF: What has the response been like from neighbours and members of the community? Have people generally been supportive of what you’re doing?

Henry: The response has been overwhelming in support of what I am doing.

They are angry about not being consulted on this important issue. They are angry that Canada Post has no apparent concern for how the placement of these Super Mail Boxes will affect them and the fact that the Harper government is dismantling their social rights.

RF: If your long-term goal is to reverse the cuts to Canada Post and to ensure the continuation of home mail delivery, what is your immediate goal with your occupation? Have you received any communication from officials at Canada Post? What about officials at the City of Hamilton?

Henry: My immediate goal is to make this an election issue, which it should be anyway. I have not heard anything from Canada Post.

And as for city officials, they fully support what we are doing.

RF: Civil disobedience is not a tactic that has been widely used up until now in the fight to save door-to-door mail delivery. What do you think people can take away from your example?

Henry: People can take away the fact that peaceful, non-violent, civil disobedience works.

Although in this case — at least at this point — I don’t know if I would call this civil “disobedience,” as I have the support of city officials.

It’s a case of standing up to stop the theft of our social rights by a dictatorial government.

RF: When and where can people go to support your occupation?

Henry: To support our occupation, you can join us at East 28th and Brucdale Ave. near Upper Sherman, between 6:45am and 4pm (for now, at least).

But it is also important to make this as wide spread as possible.

If you see them attempting to dig a hole for the concrete pads, or if there is already a pad installed near where you live, occupy that spot.

If the pad is on your lawn, thank Canada Post for the “patio” and host a barbecue for your family and friends. We do appreciate people dropping by our spot, though, and sharing some time to chat and assisting with the occupation.

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