Hamilton seeks restraining order against Canada Post super mailboxes

The city of Hamilton is going to court against Canada Post to try to stop the corporation from installing new super mailboxes.
Workers from DICAM Landscaping of Binbrook lay a concrete pad for a future Canada Post super mailbox last week. The city is applying to Ontario court to restrain Canada Post from installing more mailboxes. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city of Hamilton is going to court against Canada Post to try to stop the corporation from installing new super mailboxes.

The city became the first last week to pass a bylaw dictating that the corporation get a $200 permit for each community mailbox it wants to install on municipal property. The mailboxes are part of the corporation's plan to phase out urban door-to-door mail delivery across the country, including 117,000 Hamilton homes over the next 10 years.

But Canada Post says it doesn't have to follow the city's rules, and is going ahead with installing mailboxes on the Mountain this week anyway. It says the federal Canada Post Corporation Act trumps the municipality's rules.

That impasse prompted city council to vote on Wednesday to be the first to apply for a court order to restrain the corporation from contravening its bylaw.

The city will likely start ticketing Canada Post this week for what seems to be its "flagrant" disregard for the bylaw, said Hamilton city solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski. It will also apply for a court order to restrain Canada Post from installing the boxes unless it abides by the bylaw.

"The charges will come immediately if the work doesn't stop," she said.

It's a landmark battle against Canada Post, which says it's phasing out urban door-to-door mail delivery because of changing consumer patterns. Several municipalities have passed resolutions against the plan, but Hamilton is the first to actually go to court.

It's doing so in the name of its newly amended Road Installation – Equipment Bylaw, which says the city must help Canada Post examine each location, and that it needs $200 per site to cover staffing costs.

But Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8 says contractors are still working on the Mountain, digging holes and laying concrete pads, without consulting the city.

In one case, he said, Canada Post put a mailbox where the city had already issued a building permit for a new driveway.

"That's why city needs to be part of this process, to ensure super mailboxes are going in good locations," he said.

Municipal law expert John Mascarin told CBC Hamilton last week that Canada Post is the likely victor in any court challenge, since federal laws trump municipal ones. 

Canada Post agrees.

"Canada Post has the exclusive jurisdiction over postal services in Canada and has the legal authority to install community mailboxes on municipally-owned property," spokesperson Jon Hamilton said on Wednesday. 

"While we have a long history installing equipment in communities across the country, we do so in a thoughtful, consultative manner and in accordance with the laws that govern how postal service is provided in Canada."

Canada Post started its community mailbox plan in Hamilton last June, he said. It shared maps of proposed locations last fall and consulted with thousands of residents.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC


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