Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's senior gets letter from Canada Post — saying it's too dangerous to deliver any letters

The postal service cited lack of snow removal as the reason employees couldn't get to the mailbox of a St. John's resident, who's raising an eyebrow over the decision.

Postal service cited lack of snow removal as the reason employees couldn't get to mailbox

Retired neurosurgeon William Pryse-Phillips received a letter from Canada Post last week telling him it was too unsafe for workers to deliver mail to his home. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

William Pryse-Phillips woke up last Saturday to the familiar sight of a letter in his mailbox.

What it told him, however, was something he'd never heard before.

"It was a kind, apologetic letter saying they are very sorry that due to weather conditions, they could not deliver any mail by hand," said Pryse-Phillips, a retired neurosurgeon living in St. John's.

"The letter, however, was delivered by hand.… I found that rather ironic."

The one-page note from Canada Post indicated the area around Pryse-Phillips' property was too dangerous to permit employees to walk to his door, and that his mail could be picked up at a post office on Kenmount Road.

"Due to the conditions of the roads and the lack of snow clearing, it is not safe for our delivery employee to walk out in the road," reads the letter.

"We are monitoring the situation and will resume your delivery service as soon as it is safe to do so."

For Pryse-Phillips, who says he and his neighbours have kept up with clearing the walkways on their properties, the polite message represented more than a minor inconvenience — it meant, by the agency's own metric, putting Canada Post customers at risk.

"The union and the city and Canada Post generally, it seems, want to protect their letter carriers from any possible hazard," he said.

"The trouble is that by doing that, they are creating hazards for other people."

Canada Post said it wasn't safe to deliver to this St. John's residence due to 'lack of snow clearing.' (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Seniors, people with disabilities, and those relying on income assistance cheques, he said, now have to find a way to the depot to pick up potential necessities, thanks to that decision.

Pryse-Phillips also took issue with the gap between Canada Post's risk assessment and the city's, calling the postal agency "overcautious" in light of other residents and employees getting around town — and thinks the amount of snow around his property pales in comparison to the dangers other residents face.

"What is the hazard? How much hazard are we talking about?" he asked.

"Schoolchildren are having to walk home maybe a kilometre and a half from a school, often along unplowed sidewalks. We don't seem to worry about that."

No one from Canada Post was available for an interview Wednesday, but in a statement told CBC the letter informing Pryse-Phillips of the delivery disruption was placed in his mailbox by two employees working together. The agency said it determined single-person delivery wasn't safe.

The postal service has faced criticism after a January blizzard left many of its community mailboxes buried for days and essential mail undelivered for weeks. Some areas of the city, now including Pryse-Phillips's neighbourhood, are still waiting for letters and parcels to fill mailboxes and front steps. 

But Pryse-Phillips lays part of that blame with the city.

"The amount of sidewalk clearing has been minimal," he said. "They really have to put snow clearing, and snow removal, as a priority. Which I feel from their actions in this last month they've failed to do."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn


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