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Shakhlo Sharipova outside the Canada Post depot where she must go to collect her mail due to delivery disruptions, in Toronto, on March 2, 2021.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Thousands of tenants in at least 10 Toronto high-rises, including many newcomers and low-income earners who rely on government benefit cheques delivered by post, have had their mail delivery temporarily suspended by Canada Post due to employees’ concerns about exposure to COVID-19.

Residents in three Toronto neighbourhoods have complained that Canada Post stopped delivery without warning or communication on how or when it will resume.

Amid a pandemic in which low-income residents account for half the cases of COVID-19 in the city, some say the disruption feels like an added punishment for communities that have already been stigmatized.

In early February, Shakhlo Sharipova’s neighbour told her Canada Post had halted delivery to their building at 43 Thorncliffe Park Drive.

She thought the delay was owing to an outbreak at a mail facility in Mississauga where more than 300 workers tested positive, but then saw a Canada Post memo in her building dated Feb. 2: “It has been brought to our attention, when delivering to your building, our Delivery Agent is unable to maintain proper physical distancing with tenants who are not wearing a face covering,” it said.

After a four-kilometre Uber ride and 90-minute wait at a Canada Post depot, Ms. Sharipova finally received the disability cheque she was waiting on, as well as several tax documents.

“Those cheques are very important to us – we commit it to our rent payment,” she said.

Ms. Sharipova and another Thorncliffe Park resident, Najia Zewari, were both told by Canada Post employees at the depot that this service interruption was in place at six buildings in their neighbourhood, home to many immigrants and racialized residents. In mid-January, Thorncliffe Park had the highest COVID-19 testing positivity rate in the city, at 23.5 per cent.

“We don’t want this community to be labelled as, ‘Oh, this is COVID area,’ ” Ms. Zewari said.

In an e-mailed response to The Globe and Mail, Valérie Chartrand, a spokesperson for Canada Post, addressed only the service interruption at the Thorncliffe Park building, and would not say where else delivery had been suspended or for how long.

“Wearing masks in public areas … is a common courtesy to others, especially those working to provide a service. This situation is a safety risk and our service to the building will resume once it is safe to do so,” Ms. Chartrand wrote.

North of Thorncliffe Park, residents of two high-rises on Graydon Hall Drive – as well as their property management company, GH Capital Corp. – staged a protest this week in response to the suspended mail delivery at their buildings, which had happened twice since early February.

“The impact for tenants is significant,” property manager Julie Rahier said, since many rely on Canada Post to deliver cheques for employment insurance, pensions, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and other types of government assistance. None of the many service providers and couriers who regularly attend to the building have complained about safety, she noted.

Ms. Rahier’s phone calls and e-mails to Canada Post went unanswered until The Globe and Mail and a lawyer contacted the Crown corporation. After meeting with Ms. Rahier’s team, Canada Post agreed to resume service Thursday, but said the carrier who serves the building can suspend service again if they feel unsafe.

At West Lodge Apartments, two high-rises in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, mail delivery has been intermittently suspended since Feb. 9.

Hugh Mansfield, a spokesperson for property manager Hazelview, said in response to the suspension, West Lodge now puts an elevator in service mode and provides security escorts to postal workers. But if a mail carrier encounters an unmasked resident, they can still suspend delivery for the day, requiring tenants to travel to the opposite end of the city to fetch their mail at a depot.

Tenant organizer Paterson Hodgson said Hazelview did not share mail carriers’ concerns with tenants and ignored a letter sent by a tenant committee requesting the company provide all tenants with masks and enforce compliance among contractors on site.

“We have a bureaucratic group, Canada Post, trying to talk to a … landlord that doesn’t care about us,” Ms. Hodgson said. “The two groups of people that get left behind are us tenants who don’t get our mail, and mail carriers who … get a terrible deal.”