Alicia Morin and four other letter carriers in Saskatoon will not be disciplined by Canada Post after refusing to deliver graphic anti-abortion flyers that target Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“It’s not the message at all. It’s the graphic images that are on the pamphlet,” Morin said before a resolution was reached between the five employees and their employer on Thursday. They were willing to face the consequences of their actions.
Three volunteer Canada Post employees have stepped in to deliver the flyers on the five employees’ behalf.
One of the five postal workers chose to take the day off, one agreed to post a warning message on bulletin boards at some apartments, and the other three will continue to deliver mail on their respective routes with the exception of handing out flyers.
“There wasn’t really a dry eye in the depot. There was a lot of tears. There was a lot of very open and frank discussion,” Julee Sanderson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Saskatoon, said.
The flyer stems from a group called the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. The group first handed out the flyers in Saskatoon two months ago. They have since contracted Canada Post to deliver the flyers, which are now in a white envelope that says ‘important election information enclosed.’
The flyer itself includes a picture claimed to be of an aborted fetus alongside a picture of Trudeau. It includes a statement that says Trudeau supports abortion and a vote for Trudeau is a vote for this, referring to the picture.
Morin and the four other employees refused to deliver the flyers on Wednesday. They were told the issue would be addressed Thursday morning.
Sanderson says Canada Post has told the union that the corporation is not responsible for the content of mail and is legally obligated to deliver the flyers.
Canada Post released a statement to the media on Thursday stating, “We are responsible for the physical delivery of all mail in Canada. We do not have the legal right to refuse delivery of a mail item because we or other people object to its content. Anyone who has concerns about the content should either contact the publisher or dispose of it.”
Morin sees it differently.
“We are legally obliged to do many things in our lives but there is a lot of things that we don’t agree with and people don’t do it. I don’t feel comfortable doing it. I do not want my customers to see this message,” Morin said, pointing to children and elders.
Saskatoon lawyer Peter Barnacle believes there are several factors involved in this case. One of which is Canada Post’s response regarding their legal obligation.
“I just think that’s way too broad a statement of their obligations. It would just open it up to say, ‘You can send anything you like through the mail’ and they would have no choice but to deliver it, even if it was the most offensive,” Barnacle, who works with the The W Law Group, explained.
“I think Canada Post has a little bit more control over the system than you just put it in the post box and they have to deliver it.”
Morin said when the flyers were originally handed out by the group, many people blamed Canada Post and “Canada Post had to send out a statement saying we had nothing to do with it.”
Morin believes Canada Post has control over what they deliver, citing a case three years ago when a pornographic flyer was set to be delivered to specific addresses.
“The supervisors became aware of it and took it to upper management. The manager here told the supervisors to have the carriers pull that from delivery and not deliver that to any of the recipients,” she said.
“If they are telling me they can’t control the flyers that are coming through, that is wrong because they are actually controlling some of the mail that is going out as well.”
Barnacle said employees have the right to refuse unsafe work.
“If this material is such that it could create an emotional or even physical response by recipients, letter carriers are put into the position of having to be confronted by it,” Barnacle said.
“Does it put carriers at risk? Is it legal with Elections Act? In general, is the mail so offensive that it is unreasonable to direct someone to deliver it?”
The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is registered as a third-party through Elections Canada.
– With files from News Talk Radio’s Kurtis Doering, Angela Hill and The Canadian Press
Follow on Twitter: @karinyeske