Like many northern communities, the Cree Nation of Mistissini relies solely on Canada Post to provide its residents with the means to send and receive letters and packages. Private delivery companies don’t serve the community. The community’s burgeoning population means its postal needs are growing, but people in town claim that Canada Post isn’t meeting their needs.
Despite being one the two largest communities in Eeyou Istchee, Mistissini’s post office hours are among the most restrictive. The office is staffed for six hours daily, from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm on weekdays. By comparison, postal outlets in Chisasibi, Wemindji, Whapmagoostui, Waskaganish and Waswanipi are open for full eight-hour days.
For some residents of Mistissini, the frustration goes beyond the office’s inconvenient hours of business.
“Beyond the limited hours, there is a lot of inconsistency in the service,” said Scott Forward, a technician for the James Bay Cree Communications Society. “People complain that mail often isn’t sorted the day that it arrives, and the post office is often closed when it is scheduled to be open.”
Prompted by fellow community members’ complaints on Facebook and his own dissatisfaction, Forward started an online petition demanding that Canada Post extend the hours of the Mistissini Post Office to reflect the business hours of the community. The petition also aims to create a minimum of one full-time position and ideally two full-time positions at the office.
“We live in a remote part of the world, I can’t just go over to Future Shop to get parts, and I know other people find themselves in similar situations,” said Forward. “Considering coastal communities have better hours and more personnel to accomplish the task, it makes me believe that we can do a better job in Mistissini.”
Forward’s online petition had garnered 274 signatures as of July 2. Some of the signees posted the reasoning behind their support, mirroring many of Forward’s points.
“I do a lot of shopping online and it’s nice to have operating hours that are more flexible,” wrote Nellie Wapachee. Tammy Reeves expressed the need to receive and send work-related documents. Christine Rabbitskin posted that a well-run post office is important to those who don’t have cars to drive to Chibougamau.
After Forward organized a meeting with Deputy Chief John S. Matoush, he agreed that the postal service, as it exists, has serious shortfalls that need to be addressed. They include the need to improve the way personnel are structured as well as the business hours of the office. The number of boxes available was also mentioned as an area that needs improvement.
A meeting between the band council and Canada Post may be forthcoming after this month’s elections. According to Forward, the possibility of the band, one of its subsidiaries or an entrepreneur taking control of the Mistissini Post Office was explored at the meeting.
Forward says that Canada Post has told him the service issue can be attributed to a lack of personnel. The crown corporation did not return the Nation’s requests for comment before press time.
“I find it very hard to believe that the resources being committed are representative of a community of 4,500 people, not to mention a population growth rate that is much higher than the country average,” said Forward.