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Retiree sits at super mailbox every day to protest Canada Post

Sometimes he reads books like Justice Belied. Sometimes he chats with neighbours. Sometimes he brings his dog, Albert. Henry Evans-Tenbrinke has been sitting on a concrete pad on Brucedale Avenue to prevent Canada Post contractors from installing a super mailbox.

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke once spent a month with Yasser Arafat protesting Israeli military force

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke and Canada Post

7 years ago
Duration 0:43
Henry Evans-Tenbrinke is holding sit-ins at community mailbox sites

Sometimes he reads books such as Justice Belied. Sometimes he chats with neighbours who bring him coffee and donuts, or honk their car horns in support. Sometimes he brings Albert, his dog.

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, a long-time activist who once spent a month with Yasser Arafat, has a new quest - to stop Canada Post from installing super mailboxes on the Mountain.

Evans-Tenbrinke has a storied history of activism. He's protested at G20 and G8 summits. As member of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada, he's done plenty of union work, and been vocal about human rights causes. 

If I had done this in the Middle East, I probably would have been shot.- Henry Evans-Tenbrinke

In 2003, he spent a month on a cot in Arafat's compound, awaiting Israeli Special Forces who had promised to come and oust the Palestinian leader. He was there as a member of the International Solidarity Movement, and had "several meals and several private conversations" with Arafat.

Now Evans-Tenbrinke, 60, is spending every day sitting in a lawn chair on a community mailbox pad to ward off Canada Post contractors ready to move along the corporation's plan to phase out urban door-to-door mail delivery. Since May 11, he's been out there from roughly 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the hours that the contractors work. 

For the past six days, he's been posted at Brucedale Avenue. He's against the Canada Post plan to phase out door-to-door delivery in general. In the very least, he wants the corporation to abide by the city's new bylaw, which charges $200 per location for city staff to help site the mailbox on municipal land. The city and Canada Post will appear in court next week over the issue.

Evans-Tenbrinke says he will continue his sit-in until the case is heard in court, which starts on Monday. Then he and others doing it — he knows of about 15 others — will assess what to do next.

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, right, and his friend sit at a community mailbox pad to protest Canada Post's plan to build a super mailbox. (Jeff Green/CBC)

For Evans-Tenbrinke, it's a multi-faceted issue. Canadian citizens own Canada Post and have a right to consultation, he said. And Canada is soon to be the only commonwealth country without urban door-to-door delivery.

"Canadians have a right to decide," he said. "The postal corporation belongs to us."

He also opposes the job losses, estimated to be in the dozens by the time Canada Post converts 117,000 Hamilton homes to community mailboxes.

And "the whole premise that Canada Post is in dire straits financially is false. That's my basic issue. There's no need for this."

Hamilton has become ground zero for discontentment over Canada Post's plan. On Thursday, Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8 spoke at the Canada Post annual general meeting for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. 

"They're digging up roots on tree lines," Whitehead told CBC News. "They're tearing our irrigation systems. I'm just getting started."

At the meeting, Canada Post reported a pre-tax profit of $24 million for the first quarter of 2015. But the plan to stop door-to-door delivery is still necessary, the corporation said.

Parcel traffic is up, but Canadians sent 1.4 billion fewer pieces of mail in 2014 than they did in 2006, it said.

Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post, said there are "seismic changes" that require "difficult choices."

For Evans-Tenbrinke, the mail delivery cause is more worthwhile because he's seen countries where he couldn't protest like this.

"If I had done this in the Middle East, I probably would have been shot," he said. "Here, the police even told me I had a right to sit here."

The international work "just changes your whole outlook. It makes you appreciate that we are still relatively free." 

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