A deal has been brokered between Canada Post and the union representing six Saskatoon letter carriers who are refusing to deliver a graphic anti-abortion flyer.
According to Julee Sanderson, president of Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Saskatoon (CUPW), Canada Post will not force the six letter carriers to deliver the anti-abortion flyers. Instead, three other letter carriers have volunteered to deliver the flyers.
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The six letter carriers opposed to delivering the flyers will pick up jobs from the three volunteers instead. Sanderson said Canada Post's decision to agree to the job sharing is a rare compromise.
"The best case scenario has played itself out, you know, people who had a true issue with the content and the graphic nature of the flyer, were not forced to deliver the flyer," she said.
Flyers target Justin Trudeau
The pamphlets, with graphic images of aborted fetuses, made the rounds in Saskatoon in June and were meant to target the pro-choice stance of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who is on the campaign trail following Sunday's October election call.
The flyers created by the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform were originally hand distributed by members. This time, instead of being delivered by members of the group, some of the flyers are being slipped into white, unsealed envelopes and delivered through Canada Post.
In the agreement made between CUPW and Canada Post today, a condition of the flyer delivery is that the envelopes be sealed. Any unsealed envelopes containing the attack ads will be forwarded to management for return to the anti-abortion group.
On Wednesday, the employees from the west depot refused to distribute the flyers. Their supervisor initially told them to go home, then changed his mind and said they could work the rest of the day, Sanderson said. If they refused to distribute the flyers the following day, Canada Post had said it would take action, she said.
Sanderson said Wednesday that the letter carriers were "horrified" by the flyers and didn't want to be subjected to public scrutiny by delivering a political flyer made to shock people. She said a lot of the carriers felt Canada Post should not be engaging in this type of delivery.
However, a Canada Post spokesman in Saskatoon said in a statement on Wednesday that it has no place in deciding what type of mail does or doesn't get delivered.
"We are responsible for the physical delivery of all mail in Canada," said Matt Ziebarth, delivery manager in Saskatoon. "We do not have the legal right to refuse delivery of a mail item because we or other people object to its content. Anyone who has concerns about the content should either contact the publisher or simply dispose of it."
Today, Canada Post spokesperson Phil Legault issued the same statement and said the Crown corporation had nothing further to add.
Decision could open can of worms
Sean Tucker is surprised by Canada Post's decision because the employees didn't object based on health, safety or religious reasons. The labour relations professor at the University of Regina said it's a matter of personal opinion.
"Canada Post is in a difficult situation here, but this may be a slippery slope with other employees taking action on unsolicited mail that is not illegal — but in the mind of the employee, offensive," Tucker said.
He predicts this case could prompt the mail service to revisit its policies on warnings.
Canada Post's policy currently says it refuses delivery of illegal, fraudulent, or obscene items, but does not define obscene. It requires warnings on unsolicited sexually explicit material, but not for other images.
The anti-abortion group behind the flyer said it never discussed a warning with Canada Post.
"As long as the content of our flyer is legal, Canada Post doesn't have the right to refuse delivery, and since we're sure the content is legal, factual end evidence of what abortion does, there was no need for that discussion to take place," said Maaike Rosendal, who spoke on behalf of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.