Nova Scotia

Woman's letter to Halifax MP keeps getting returned by Canada Post

Canadians are supposed to be able to mail letters to members of Parliament in Ottawa for free, but mail workers keep sending back one Halifax woman's letter.

'I'm kind of starting to develop a bit of an affection for this letter,' says Becca Babcock

Becca Babcock is having a lot of problems getting this letter to MP Andy Fillmore. (Becca Babcock)

A woman in Halifax sent a letter to her MP after the U.S. election, hoping it would give her concerns more weight than a tweet or an email, but it keeps getting sent back to her.

"My letter was addressed to Andy Fillmore, member of Parliament, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6," Becca Babcock told CBC's Mainstreet.

The address isn't the problem, but the envelope is — it has no stamp.

The thing is, it doesn't need one.

Babcock wrote the letter to express her commitment to electoral reform and her worries about racism and misogyny.

She thought back to her social studies classes and how she learned that you can send a letter to your MP at that Ottawa address postage-free. She even double-checked the Parliament of Canada website to verify this before mailing it off the first time. (Both that website and the Canada Post one make mention of the free postage arrangement.)

Armed with documentation

When the letter was returned, Babcock took to social media and looped in Andy Fillmore. She messaged Canada Post on Facebook and was told she could escalate the matter by calling the complaint line.

She had better luck on Twitter. Canada Post said it would make sure staff at the local office, and the processing plant that returned the letter, were aware this is a service available to Canadians.

Babcock printed off the blurb on Parliament's website and headed back into the post office.

The worker was lovely, but hadn't heard of this, Babcock said.

Becca Babcock wants her letter delivered. (Becca Babcock/Twitter)

The worker peeled off the return-to-sender sticker, Babcock said, but seemed skeptical this letter would make it to Fillmore in Ottawa without a stamp.

Babcock, who's currently on maternity leave, said she recognizes a lot of people don't have the time or energy to pursue matters like this.

"That's really a shame that potentially people's concerns are being lost," she said.

'Every Canadian's right'

Fillmore said he hadn't heard of this happening before, and thinks it's a one-off error.

"We receive an incredible volume of mail, none of it with a stamp on it, as it's every Canadian's right to mail their MP without a stamp," he said.

Fillmore's office receives 20 to 30 letters a week in the mail, and his office gets close to 3,000 emails in a month.

As a result of Babcock's concerns, he said he's going to take some time to shine a light on the fact you don't need postage to contact your MP.

Mainstreet contacted Canada Post for an interview. It sent along a statement.

"Mailing a letter to your MP has always been free. Like with any policy, if an issue occurs, we investigate and ensure we refresh any required training," the statement said.

'Never heard of that rule'

On Friday, Babcock opened her mailbox to find the letter returned for the second time.

"To be honest, I'm kind of starting to develop a bit of an affection for this letter," she said, noting she's beginning to see the humour in the situation.

The letter didn't have a return-to-sender sticker this time. Canada Post now said she has to call and make a formal complaint. Babcock said she's not going to do that, but will keep trying to mail the letter.

She also went to another post office branch on an unrelated matter and started chatting with a worker there.

Babcock asked the worker if she knew that you can send a letter to your MP without paying postage in Canada.

"She said that she'd never heard of that rule and that it must be something new," said Babcock.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

natalie.dobbin@cbc.ca

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