‘The mailbox wasn’t there’: Woman says Canada Post moved community mailbox without notice

For weeks, Natalia Da Costa has been making a point of never skipping her trips to check the community mailbox for dozens of residents in her London, Ont., neighbourhood. 

Like other people across Ontario, Da Costa’s surgery has been pushed back as the COVID-19 pandemic forces hospitals to cancel surgeries. 

Still, she was making daily trips to the mailbox in hopes of getting a letter about a date for the procedure to fix an esophageal hernia that’s been troubling her. 

On Monday, there was still no mail about the surgery — and the mailbox wasn’t there either. 

“I looked and I looked, and I thought, ‘Have I lost my mind?'” she told CBC News.

Since moving to a new development in Summerside in May, Da Costa has collected her mail at a bank of six community mailboxes on Chelton Road, about two blocks from her house. 

When she arrived Monday, only the concrete footings remained. The mailboxes were gone. 

Da Costa remembers that when she moved in last year, a notification from Canada Post said the mailbox location was temporary and eventually, a permanent location would be found in the subdivision, which is being developed with new homes. 

Canada Post moves community mailbox in London, Ont. without notice

Natalia Da Costa arrived at the location of her community mailbox on Jan. 31, to find it had been removed from its location. After a series of calls with Canada Post, her husband Al Cox found the relocated box within their neighbourhood complex three days later. 0:54

But Da Costa said she and her husband received no notification about the new location.

CBC News initially emailed Canada Post on Thursday for comment and reached out to them again on Friday. After the story was published, Canada Post said residents were notified about the new mailbox location on Jan. 7.

Da Costa, however, maintains she received no such notice. 

‘I started panicking’

“The whole mailbox was gone,” she said. “We didn’t know — we thought maybe it got stolen. I started panicking and getting very anxious. I was worried about identity theft. All that went through my mind.” 

The couple filed a complaint with Canada Post on Monday, and were told they would have a call back in 24 hours. When Wednesday rolled around, Da Costa called again. 

“I told them, ‘I’m expecting urgent mail to come through,’ and you know, ‘Where’s my mail?” she said. “The [Canada Post] woman said, ‘I don’t know.'” 

Community mailboxes — which cluster together mail slots for many addresses at a single location — have been a frequent source of customer complaints. (Amanda Connolly/CBC)

On Thursday, Da Costa said, Canada Post called to give them the address of the new mailbox location. But the address was the street address of a multi-unit development that sprawls over a large area.

Cox had to drive around for a time before finding the new location of the mailbox for his community, after calling again to get the specific unit number where the mailbox was located. 

“It’s deep in the heart of this complex,” he said about where the mailbox was relocated. “You have to go in quite a ways and it’s hidden. Unless you’re right there, you can’t see it.” 

Historical concerns

Community mailboxes — which cluster together mail slots for many addresses at a single location — have been a frequent source of customer complaints. 

There have been problems with litter and concerns about identity theft after units were broken into in locations across the country, including New Brunswick and Edmonton.

In 2013, Canada Post announced plans to phase out door-to-door mail delivery at millions of urban addresses and convert them to community mailboxes. 

In 2018, the federal government put a halt to that process, but some 800,000 addresses that had already lost home delivery didn’t get it back. 

Da Costa said that after this week’s runaround, she much prefers home delivery. 

“I really liked the door-to-door delivery, it worked beautifully,” she said. “It’s definitely a better way to deliver the mail.” 

As of Friday, she still hadn’t received that letter for her rescheduled surgery.

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