Recent changes to postal rates for boxes being delivered to remote northern communities are crushing charities trying to help residents who are sometimes unable to attain basic necessities such as food and clothing.
Items that those southern Canada take for granted are often unavailable to northern residents due to expense or a lack of availability.
But the abrupt end of a pilot program that allowed charities to send large boxes of supplies to remote, mostly indigenous Northern communities for about $23 has hampered efforts to offer some relief.
Woodstock resident Jayna Leroux-Hendren, who has sent more than 600 boxes to Nunavut through the charity Helping Our Northern Neighbours, said in December the price of shipping a box almost doubled.
“I’m so upset about it,” she said. “Everyone that is involved is devastated.”
Leroux started shipping supplies to Nunavut as way to honour her son Brent Hendren who was presumed drowned in Haida Gwaii in the spring of 2015.
Almost every day she tries to ship at least one box filled with food, clothing or what she refers to as birthday boxes, filled with supplies to celebrate such as cake mixes.
Prices of staples such as water and food are often exorbitant in remote Northern communities due to the high cost of transportation.
Leroux-Hendren said she was even contacted by one school teacher who said only three out of 18 of her students owned running shoes.
“That was because there were no running shoes in the stores,” she said.
At Christmas she purchased a remote control toy ski-doo for a northern mother for her son for $80.
Leroux-Hendren said the price of the toy in northern community was $299.
Prior to Dec. 11 there were three box sizes that were available to ship anywhere in Canada with the medium costing $15.99 and the large $19.99.
“But for Nunavut there is now only the medium, which has gone from $15.99 to $34.99,” she said. “So the people who need it the most are being penalized again. Now all the people from the different groups of helping our northern neighbors are scrambling to figure out to get items to the ones in need at an affordable price.”
The $34.99 box is also not available for purchase in Nunavut, so when residents there have to pack and ship to the south they pay full prices.
“They cannot buy the boxes that are for northerners in the north,” Leroux-Hendren said.
Canada Post issued this statement on Thursday.
“We highly value the service we provide to communities in Northern Canada as we know how important it is to the people that live there. We have already made investments in many of our locations in the Far North to meet the increased demand we’re seeing in terms of online shopping.
As part of our Flat Rate box program, we introduced a pilot known as the Remote Northern Canada box. We are continuing to test the pilot in a small number of our post office locations and will be making adjustments. We have already received some input from customers which is incredibly important as we look to find the best path forward. We are trying to find the best approach to accommodate the needs of those who ship to remote Northern locations with the much higher air freight costs that are incurred.”