Ottawa

You've got mail, overflowing U.S. post office near Canadian border tells Ontario customers

The U.S. Postal Service office in Ogdensburg, N.Y., says it's no longer able to hold on to an overflowing amount of Canadian mail — and customers north of the border, including many in eastern Ontario, are now scrambling to make alternate arrangements.

Border closure due to pandemic has left people scrambling to claim mail by March 15

The United States Postal Service office in Ogdensburg, N.Y., has sent out a notice to Canadian customers to pick up their mail by March 15 as it deals with an overflow of parcels. Canadians with postal boxes in the U.S. community have been unable to cross the border due to COVID-19 restrictions. (United States Postal Service)

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) office in Ogdensburg, N.Y., says it's no longer able to hold on to an overflowing amount of Canadian mail — and customers north of the border are now scrambling to make alternate arrangements.

The office recently sent an email to its Canadian customers telling them that their PO box locations "have limited capacity to hold mail, including packages, for extended periods of time."

Canadians now have until March 15 to have someone get their mail, or it will be classified as "unclaimed" and returned to the sender.

Many people in eastern Ontario use postal boxes at the Ogdensburg post office to have items delivered that are usually only available in the United States.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they would then drive across the border to pick them up.

But since March 2020, the land border between Canada and the United States has been closed for non-essential travel, and many people haven't been able to claim their mail.

Border closure 'isn't without a cost'

Ottawa's Karen Parkinson is one of those people.

Parkinson owns a printing business that has customers in the U.S., and she relies on the Ogdensburg post office to send orders, which lowers the cost of shipping.

Karen Parkinson, who owns a printing business in Ottawa, says she's been unable to claim important documents and mail from the Ogdensburg, N.Y., post office since the land border closed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Submitted by Karen Parkinson)

She said she has customer payments, invoices, bank statements, legal documents and other time-sensitive mail sitting in her box, and there's no one in the U.S. able to pick it up for her.

"The solution is to maybe wait until the beginning of March and see if we can pay the USPS to forward all that mail and whatever else is waiting for us up to here in Ottawa," Parkinson said.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to get this pandemic behind us, but it isn't without a cost."

Thousands of packages unclaimed

Laurel Lee Roethel, owner of Roethel Parcel Service in Ogdensburg, said she's been contacted by dozens of Canadians asking if she can collect their mail from the post office and arrange for delivery.

"I've never seen anything like this. I've been helping Canadians with their packaging since 1984, so I've been around the block a few times. And I've never seen anything like this," she said.

WATCH | U.S. post office running out of room for Canadian mail:

New York post office running out of room for Canadian packages

CBC News Ottawa

5 days agoVideo
0:36
Laurel Lee Roethel, owner of Roethel Parcel Service in Ogdensburg, N.Y., says mail destined for Canadian recipients has been languishing in post offices for months as border closures prohibit travelling to pick up packages. 0:36

Roethel said her business is also holding on to a large number of packages for Canadian customers — more than 2,000, many since March of last year.

While "things have been piling up," Roethel said she doesn't have space issues. She's also been able to arrange for parcels to be forwarded from her office into Canada.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the USPS said customers can be assured "that there is not a tremendous spill of packages behind the scenes."

The notice sent to Canadians is an attempt "to get those who have just been inactive for a very long period to make a claim," the spokesperson said.

About the Author

Nicole Williams

Video Journalist

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with CBC P.E.I. and as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.

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