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Everything you need to know about community mailboxes

Mail carrier Leo Gaspari delivers mail on his route in the Don Mills and Lawrence area in Toronto on Dec. 11, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Canada Post can't say yet who will be affected first or how it will notify people, but, by late 2014, it will begin a push to convert urban households still getting door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes. Here is what the national mail operator has to say to Canadians who are still receiving their mail at their doorstep.

What should I expect?

Community mailboxes (or CMBs in Canada Post jargon) are set up in outdoor locations. "Sometimes it's in a park. Sometimes you'll see them along the street by the sidewalk. It really depends on the community," Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said. "There's no cookie-cutter because every community is different."

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Each household gets a key to its individual locked mailbox.

There are also larger shared boxes for parcels. If you receive a package, the key to open the parcels box will be dropped into your own mailbox. Canada Post says it is a more convenient way to deliver packages than leaving them on your porch while you're at work, or leaving a note and requiring you to visit a nearby postal counter.

Is there a standard policy specifying how far away the community mailbox can be located from my home?

Canada Post has guidelines, but Mr. Hamilton said there are no strict rules specifying how far you will have to go to get your mail. "We know every neighbourhood is different so we approach it that way and put forward a plan that makes sense for each community," he said.

When will those community boxes arrive in my neighbourhood?

The first round of urban areas to be shifted to community mailboxes will be announced late in 2014. All Canadian households will have converted to the new system within a five-year period.

"For a lot of Canadians, they won't see this change for a couple of years," Mr. Hamilton said.

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How will I be notified that I will be switched to a community mailbox?

The details haven't been worked out, but "it's a safe bet you'll get something in the mail when it's time," Mr. Hamilton said.

Will junk mail still land in my box?

Yes, pamphlets and direct mail will still show up. With a community mailbox, you will keep receiving "everything you get in the mail today," Mr. Hamilton said.

In fact, a common complaint about community mailboxes is that people litter the site with discarded flyers.

What are some security and accessibility concerns?

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Elderly people and people with mobility issues are rarely happy about switching to community mailboxes. Also, there have been reports that community mailboxes are targeted by vandals and thieves.

Mr. Hamilton said Canada Post has experience "finding locations that are safe and convenient. In areas where there have been issues, we've worked with the local police because we need to address that as quickly as possible."

For seniors and disabled people, Canada Post will provide an extra mailbox key that can be given to a caregiver or a trusted, able-bodied person.

Will I be charged a $200 community mailbox set-up fee?

No. Canada Post has a policy that started last January, charging a one-time $200 fee per address to set up community mailboxes in new developments. The Crown corporation argued that mail delivery was part of basic services such as roads, sewers or utilities.

The $200 will not, however, be charged for households being converted from door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes, Mr. Hamilton said.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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