Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Administrative & Government

Charter challenge could be in cards for Canada Post

Canada Post has been shedding massive red ink over the last several years, and without a swift change in direction, the hemorrhaging is bound to continue, if not increase, says Toronto administrative lawyer Jeremy Richler.

"The Internet has transformed communications, enabled electronic remittances and, as such, the need for postal mail has declined significantly over the last number of years," says Richler, all reasons for Canada Post's recent decision to cut urban mail delivery.

According to the CBC, among the highlights are the end of door-to-door mail delivery within five years, a significant hike in the price per stamp (up to $1), the elimination of 8,000 jobs, and more franchised post offices.

As a Crown corporation, Canada Post relies on taxpayers' money to survive, and an inability for the institution to adapt to a transforming landscape would signal a profound lack of accountability to Canadian taxpayers, Richler says. He adds, Canada Post, "to its credit, realizes that nothing less than swift change is required now, and not at some ill-defined point in the future."

The legal issues that arise, however, are not insignificant, says Richler. The shedding of 8,000 positions will not be treated lightly by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, he says, who would be well within their rights to defend the workers they represent.

"Yet, Canada Post deferring swift action would only lead to an inevitable decision yet again to trim compensation and benefits to workers, and in light of the most recent labour disruption, Canada Post is making the right decision to take strategic, pre-emptive action now," says Richler.

Canada Post must ensure that job cuts afford all employees due process and compliance with the Employment Standards Act, says Richler, "to provide severance to long-serving employees, and to employ attrition policies that end jobs through retirement to the greatest extent possible."

The Crown corporation must take all steps to ensure that Canadians with physical disabilities are accommodated, says Richler, "and do not bear the brunt of the decision to end door-to-door service.

"As a government actor, Canada Post should not be too surprised if a possible Charter challenge is made on the grounds that these proposals do not protect equality rights of more vulnerable Canadians, as per s.15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Richler adds.

This potential legal action does not mean that Canada Post should be prevented from ending door-to-door service, no longer the norm in most remote and rural regions, says Richler.

"Rather, when changes are being made, Canada Post must be extra careful to ensure that persons with disabilities are treated with dignity, that any possible disruptions are minimal, and that no one falls prey to discrimination as a consequence of Canada Post's necessary decision to streamline its organization," he says.

On the whole, Canada Post should be applauded for realizing that in order to continue serving its role as a Crown corporation in trust to ordinary Canadians, swift action to adapt to the 21st century cannot wait, Richler says, adding, now is the time for action and not more roundtables.

"This is bound to be a challenging process, but the initial steps are encouraging."

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