Canadians care about the management of their postal services. Susan Dixon’s “Don’t let Canada Post end door-to-door delivery” has so far registered 232,269 supporters on Change.org.
My petition is not meant as a rebuttal to or protest against the plan recently released by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) for “A Better Public PostalService for Everyone!” It is meant to provide a suggestion to strengthen it by including a group of stakeholders who were left out of the planning, although they have been important contributors to the long-term economic sustainability of Canada Post – the philatelic community which comprises of many different stakeholders including stamp collectors. In 2003, Kevin Brooker reports in Applied Arts that “according to Alain Leduc […] stamp manager of Canada Post […] our national stamp program is as strong as ever. Although the crown corporation is guarded about its budget and revenues, a lot of stamps are still getting made. […] Remarkably, he says that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of them are bought by collectors here and, increasingly, abroad” (Brooker, 2003, p. 32).
The CUPW plan is a work in progress and there is an opportunity for the philatelic community to be involved. As a signatory to the Leap Manifesto, I was in fact excited when a friend mentioned to me that CUPW’s plan was publicly supported by Naomi Klein and her colleagues for the environmental ideas it put forward, since I had always personally struggled with the size of the carbon footprint of snail mail and the postal industry. I was also annoyed at the fact that the popular self-adhesive stamps that are now commonplace are harmful to the environment. This is why the tone adopted in my petition is one that is asking to be included in future conversations rather then reprimanding for having been left out.
Image 1. Recent hand cancellation in black grease crayon by either Canadian or Belgian postal worker. An unnecessary gesture as we can see that the stamps were already cancelled and postmarked.
I am not myself a stamp collector, but I purchase stamps to put on postcards I send abroad as a member of an international postcard club and online community called Postcrossing.com. I have always liked postcards, as far back as I can remember. As a history buff and a fan of “mail art” who has worked and lived abroad, I was always fascinated by aspects of the philatelic tradition that we seemed to be missing out on here at home. In a private group on Facebook comprising over 900 Francophone postcard enthusiasts, I realized that a common topic of discussion was the lack of philatelic literacy, awareness and sensitivity regarding the hobby of letter-writing and stamp collecting of some (fortunately not all) front-line postal workers here in Canada and abroad. Complaints covered practices from folding oversized envelopes in two to fit through a mailbox slot to cancelling collectible stamps with felt pens or destroying them in the postal service’s processing centres. These complaints often led to deeper discussions on how the philatelic community felt left out of the dialogue about the future of the postal service or the process of making business decisions (such as the impact of adopting self-adhesive stamps) that dramatically affect their hobby, which has a history stretching back to the inception of the service itself. It was therefore no surprise that in the CUPW document, they were not considered.
Since any petition must have a focus, I was not able to include many of the important issues related to the daily operations of our postal services and for that matter to the public, including the stakeholders concerned in my petition. For example, choosing a stamp image entails a great responsibility and involves important issues with respect to identity politics (Keith, 2006; Maloney, 2013). Choosing the images on stamps in Canada is the responsibility of Canada Post’s Stamp Advisory Committee. An alternative would be to address a more specific petition to the Director of Stamp Products at Canada Post, asking that going forward, more women, Indigenous individuals, and New Canadians be represented on Canadian stamps. This would follow in the footsteps of a successful petition initiated by Merna Forster of Victoria, asking the Bank of Canada to add women from Canadian history to Canadian banknotes. To date it has obtained 73, 202 signatures.
Image 2: Preserving the poles, Canada Post supporting the fight against climate change as part of a worlwide initiative.
One argument that I wish I would have made more persuasively is that stamps are miniature works of art and marvels of craftsmanship; their inherent beauty and their longevity appeal to artists and designers alike. The aforementioned article in Applied Arts is really worth a read. It can be found in and retrieved from the University of Alberta Library catalogue.
Overall, this first experience of writing an online petition has been difficult, insofar as putting one’s name out there on behalf of a large community of stakeholders involves a whole other level of commitment requiring the willingness to be held accountable in many ways for the petition’s outcomes. Fortunately, I felt that the conversations I had with key stakeholders in this community, as exemplified in the petition, helped me help a community that often feels voiceless to speak its mind.
Bank of Canada: Add women from Canadian history to Canadian bank notes
Retrieved from (https://www.change.org/p/bank-of-canada-add-women-from-canadian-history-to-canadian-bank-notes)
Brooker, K. (2003, September/October). Mail Calls. Applied Arts Magazine, 28(4), 30-41.
Dobson, H. (2005). The Stamp of Approval: Decision-Making Processes and Policies in Japan and the UK. East Asia, 22 (2), 56-76.
Don’t let Canada Post end door-to-door delivery (https://www.change.org/p/don-t-let-canada-post-end-door-to-door-delivery)
Jeffrey, K. (2006). Crown, Communication and the Colonial Post: Stamps, The Monarchy and the British Empire. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 34 (1), 45-70.
Lammam, C. & Karabegovic, A. (2011, September/October). Recent mail disruption strengthens case to privatize Canada Post. Fraser Forum, 12-13. Retrieved from: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/fraserforum-september-october-2011.pdf
The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another (https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/)
Mah, M. (2006, June). Can’t be licked. Quill & Quire, 72 (5), p. 13
Maloney, M. (2013). “One of the best advertising mediums the country can have:” Postage Stamps and National Identity in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Material Culture Review. 77/78 (Spring/Fall 2013), p. 21-38.