Long drives and wait times for mail in Saskatchewan First Nations and remote communities could improve under a new plan.
Dale LeClair, Canada Post's director of Indigenous and northern affairs, said the Crown corporation's plan to revamp services in those communities may help matters. A key part of that effort will be opening expanded mail services.
"Those communities, with the rightsized populations that are isolated a little bit more or further out, we need to address the issues about why (they) don't have post offices," he said.
He estimated there are about 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Canada, but that Canada Post only has offices in 200 of them. LeClair said expanded services will depend on the community, ranging from new offices to parcel lockers.
Canada Post unveiled the plan on Monday. On top of improving postal delivery, it proposes creating an Indigenous procurement policy, employing more Indigenous workers, and stepping up monitoring of non-mailable illicit substances sent to communities.
The plan is set to unfold over five years, LeClair said.
New mail services in Saskatchewan are largely being considered in Treaty 4 First Nations, he added. Generally, the plan aims to offer new services within 30 to 40 kilometres of existing ones.
The plans are encouraging for Black Lake Denesuline First Nation Chief Archie Robillard, who said his community can struggle with timely mail deliveries. The First Nation is located about 1,000 kilometres north of Saskatoon and receives its mail by plane.
Robillard said he was pleased to hear about measures like increased employment and substance monitoring. Black Lake is in the process of officially becoming a dry community, so limiting alcohol sent in the mail would boost its efforts, he said.
Peepeekisis Cree Nation Headman William Desnomie said he was waiting to hear back from Canada Post on proposed postal services included in the First Nation's plans to develop a new community hub.
While the hub would also include a gas station and food, the mail service "would be a big piece," he said.
The First Nation is located about 110 kilometres northeast of Regina. The closest post office is about 15 kilometres from the community, Desnomie said.
Expanded services would help accessibility for the First Nation and its neighbouring communities, which travel even further for mail, he noted.
"To me, it's kind of exciting that we would have something like that on our First Nation."