Nova Scotia

Judique residents say Canada Post giving them the cold shoulder over frozen mailboxes

People in Judique, N.S., are fed up with the lack of consistent access to their community mailboxes this winter, thanks to frozen locks.

Community mailbox locks have been periodically frozen shut since late December

People in Judique, N.S., are fed up with the lack of consistent access to their community mailboxes this winter, thanks to frozen locks. (Submitted by Mildred Lynn McDonald)

People in Judique, N.S., are looking for help from the federal government after frozen locks prevented them from regularly accessing their community mailboxes this winter.

Fed up with inaction from Canada Post, Mildred Lynn McDonald and Flo Campbell have been gathering feedback on the issue from friends and neighbours over the past few months. They're preparing a letter for the federal minister responsible for Canada Post.

"If you're in a larger community and you have your mail delivered, it's a non-issue," McDonald told CBC News. "But when you're in these rural communities, you're really seeing how simple things in life can get complicated." 

Locks frozen shut

The problems started shortly after Christmas when the mail carrier couldn't open the front door of the community mailboxes. The lock appeared to be frozen shut. This went on for about 3½ weeks.

Campbell said during that period in January, residents were instructed to drive to Port Hood, about a 30-minute round trip, to pick up their mail instead.

A prosaic but frustrating problem for the people of Judique: their community mailboxes keep freezing shut, whether they get their mail or not is a daily roll of the dice. Flo Campbell and Mildred-Lynn MacDonald describe the various issues with the Canada Post community mailboxes.

In response to complaints, Canada Post sent a service technician to the mailboxes in February to make sure there were no structural issues, according to a statement from the Crown corporation.

McDonald said the Canada Post technician replaced the locks on eight out of the nine mailboxes.

"The very next day, five [mailbox] modules wouldn't open again," she said, likening the situation to a "Groundhog Day loop."

The technician also applied a lock de-icer. Campbell said while the situation has improved, it's not consistent — some locks, some days, still do not open. The advice from Canada Post has been to call its customer service line whenever this happens.

"One or two people have suggested we have a can of PAM [cooking spray], which I think is absolutely ridiculous," Campbell said.

'We're not pleased'

McDonald said given the Canadian climate, more should be done to ensure safe, accessible and consistent mail delivery, especially in rural areas. She and Campbell would like to see a kiosk or small structure built to protect the mailboxes from harsh winter conditions.

Campbell said for a period of more than three weeks, the mail carrier in the area could not open the front door of the mailbox. (Submitted by Mildred Lynn McDonald)

"We're not pleased at all with Canada Post and the solutions that have been offered to us," McDonald said. "We have no idea if we came up with a structure that was appropriate, where the funding would come from.

"At the same time, we're not going to just sit here and be in the same predicament next year if there's some action or initiative we can take."

Response from Canada Post

Canada Post declined a request from CBC News for an interview, but sent a statement acknowledging the issues with the community mailboxes in Judique and thanking residents for their patience.

"Inclement weather conditions and freezing rain we experienced in February created many challenges for our delivery agents and customers alike ... Canada Post is responsible for the maintenance of all its community mailboxes, and this is a responsibility we take very seriously," the statement read.

Canada Post said employees have since been equipped with additional "de-icing agents" to ensure they'll be able to access the mailboxes moving forward.

With spring fast approaching, McDonald and Campbell said they are less concerned about freezing locks in the coming weeks and months, but are hoping to come up with a permanent solution going forward.

"We think we deserve more than just a temporary reprieve. We'd like to be heard by Canada Post," said Campbell.

"I'm not really feeling that our community's being respected."

With files from CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton

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