Residents question delivery of unsolicited publication

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – Last week (Jan. 12) residents throughout the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) found a copy of the broadsheet publication The Epoch Times in their mailbox. It didn’t take long before social media was flooded with comments and questions about this delivery.

According to media organizations in Canada and the Unites States – including CBC, NBC and the New York Times, as well as the fact-checking website Snopes – The Epoch Times is backed by Falun Gong (a religious movement founded in China in the early 1990s that has been repressed by the Chinese government) and has spread right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media presence in more than 30 countries in recent years.

In May of 2020, the CBC reported that the union representing Canada Post employees in Ontario asked the federal public services minister for an interim order to stop delivery of the newspaper due to the inflammatory nature of an edition published at that time. A spokesperson for the minister stated in the CBC article, "An initial assessment of this material does not appear to meet the required criteria of the offence of wilful promotion of hatred, as established in the Criminal Code of Canada. However, further assessment is ongoing."

Last week, The Journal once again questioned Canada Post’s role in the unsolicited delivery of this newspaper to MODG mailboxes. In an email, Canada Post media spokesperson Valérie Chartrand wrote, “As Canada's postal administration, Canada Post is obligated to deliver any mail that is properly prepared and paid for, unless it is considered non-mailable matter. The Courts have told Canada Post that its role is not to act as the censor of mail or to determine the extent of freedom of expression in Canada. This is an important distinction between Canada Post and private sector delivery companies.

“Any views we may have about the content do not change our obligation to deliver. Any further questions about the publication should be directed to the publisher.”

The Journal did attempt to contact the editor of The Epoch Times, Cindy Gu, but as of the time of publication of this newspaper, there was no response.

Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway was asked for his comments on the mailout of The Epoch Times last week and he told The Journal in an email, “During this time of crisis, millions of Canadians of different backgrounds are working together, many of them putting themselves at risk on the frontlines, with the common goal of helping their fellow Canadians. It is essential that we continue in our resolve to be an open and welcoming country that brings together people from diverse backgrounds, and I know that constituents in Cape Breton-Canso share that belief. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Canadian Chinese community during this time. The COVID-19 virus does not have a nationality or an ethnicity, and we must stand together against xenophobia and racism.

“I brought this situation to the attention of the office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand. I was informed that Canada Post has a legal obligation under the Canada Post Corporation Act to accept all neighbourhood mail for delivery subject to the regulations on Non-Mailable Matter. Decisions made by Canada Post about whether to deliver or refuse delivery of neighborhood mail are subject to the Charter of Right and Freedoms. After an initial legal assessment of this material, it does not appear to meet the required criteria for prohibiting distribution. However, given the serious nature of the complaints regarding the newspaper, Minister Anand has asked her department to look into the matter further,” stated Kelloway.

Social media posts indicate that residents in the MODG and across Canada – where many have recently received the Epoch Times, unsolicited, for the first time – are unimpressed. Some have commented that the paper would make a good fire starter. Most were curious and dismissed the publication’s content.

The edition of The Epoch Times that was delivered to residents in the MODG last week was labelled a ‘sample issue,’ indicating an advertising campaign for potential subscribers.

Anand has had complaints about this publication on her desk for at least eight months. The Journal asked for comment from her office about the issue but has, as yet, received no response.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal