By Joel Harden
Like many people, my day starts with a cup of coffee and the proverbial smart phone prayer. Typically, this ritual involves checking all manner of messages, most of which are assisted by generous gulps of caffeine.
But yesterday, as I sorted through my various inboxes, one message stood out. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had occupied a designated community mailbox site in Westboro Beach, an upscale neighbourhood in Ottawa’s west end. This was part of its bid to save home delivery, which has been targeted for removal by Canada Post officials.
When I arrived on the scene Mike Palacek, CUPW’s National President, was occupying the site with several CUPW activists. A tent had been erected beside the spot where Canada Post would like to build its mailbox.
This is the second occupation of its kind in recent months. In Hamilton, Henry Evans-Tenbrike, a retiree, occupied a community mailbox site for several days. This was part of a wave of local resistance that has delayed Canada Post’s efforts to end home delivery in downtown Hamilton.
This time, the person involved is Lynda Kitchikeesic, a 26-year-resident whose modest bungalow is among the few original homes in the Westboro beach area.
Unfortunately for Canada Post, Lynda is also a lifelong activist, and a prominent local leader in Idle No More. Though Lynda has faced recent struggles with her health, she remains a proud activist, and is pleased to have CUPW’s support.
I caught up with Lynda to ask why she opposes Canada Post’s community mailboxes and its bid to end home delivery.
Joel Harden: So, can you give us a sense of how this all started?
Lynda Kitchikeesic: I received a letter from Canada Post months ago saying that there was going to be a community mailbox next door. I talked with those neighbours, who said they didn’t mind it across from their property. I didn’t like that decision, but the neighbourhood decided not the block the community mailbox altogether with that in mind.
But yesterday morning, I woke up to a clanking noise, and it took me a while to make my way to the window. When I did, I suddenly realized — oh my God — they’re putting in a base for the mailbox smack in the middle of my picture window!
I rushed outside and I told them to stop. I was freaking out. “I have a letter,” I shouted to the supervisor on site, ”a letter that says this is not to be built across from my house.”
I finally found the letter in my house, I had to empty an entire filing cabinet on my living room floor. I then ran outside and said, “here it is, you can’t do this.” The response I got was “too bad.”
Then I called Canada Post and someone told me she would check into the matter while I waited. This same person then said “you’re right”, so I handed my phone to the site crew supervisor.
Despite this, the supervisor again said “too bad.” They installed a base for a mailbox across from my house, and another down the street.
JH: How important is your letter carrier to you?
LK: Oh my god, I’ve lived here for 26 years. My first letter carrier, I saw him every day. He was part of my family. We’d always greet each other. We knew little things about each other’s lives, he was great. He was around for a long, long time.
After he retired I got another letter carrier who, quite honestly, had something wrong with him. He was racist or something and we didn’t take to each other too well. He left after getting bit by the neighbour’s dog, which somehow got blamed on me and I didn’t have mail service for a year and a half.
Once I got my mail service restored, I’ve been assigned a new letter carrier, a lovely woman whose name I can’t remember. I see her every day, so forgetting her name bothers me, but she’s super nice. I always make a point of talking to her, it’s interaction and that’s important for someone like me who lives a shut-in life for health reasons during the winter months.
Listen, people like me, shut-ins during the colder months like me, we appreciate letter carriers. If I wasn’t on the internet, the only interaction I would get most days is with the letter carrier. So yeah, I have a huge issue with ending home delivery. It’s going to leave some sad and lonely people even sadder and lonelier.
Not to mention all the bodies they probably find. But if Canada Post takes away home delivery, how long will it take before someone finds me? What would happen without someone coming to my door each day? She might knock on the door to see what’s wrong. She would inform someone to come and check for me.
Now, I know that’s not her job — the letter carrier is not a coroner. But it’s nice to think that you wouldn’t be laying there, unloved and unknown. Sorry to be morbid, but it’s kinda nice to know that someone might notice if I die.
JH: Do you have a message for others?
LK: Sure do. If you get a letter from Canada Post about a community mailbox ask for a legal document.
Canada Post has told two journalists I’ve spoken with that they will not move this mailbox. If you think a letter means something, that a mailbox isn’t going to impact your property, it doesn’t.
Demand a legal document, and tell them not to end home delivery anyway.
JH: Do you think this is going to happen more? Are more people going to occupy these spaces?
LK: I hope so. If they’re doing this to anyone else, yes, I hope lots of people are going to occupy them. This is just unreasonable.
This is the last remaining original bungalow that used to be on the shores of the Ottawa River. It was moved to this spot when they moved the houses off the river. I’m actually the only one on this street who sits at street level. The house on the right is five feet over street level. The house on left, when it becomes a mansion, will be that or higher.
I’m the only one around whose view could be ruined. The only one. So you pick the poor house on the street – the one you think won’t cause a fuss.
Canada Post probably saw me and laughed. They likely thought it couldn’t happen to a better person.
Well, they are wrong. I’m fighting this and I’m mad.