Posties threatened with suspension if they 'thank the Lord'
It was a tradition for more than 25 years for some Cornwall mail carriers to repeat a farewell phrase as they left the office to begin their routes.
"Merci Seigneur pour la belle journee," the Canada Post carriers exclaimed, to which others would often respond with the same well-wishing words.
But the phrase, which translates to "Thank you Lord for the beautiful day," has now been banned at the Cornwall office by Canada Post management after a mail carrier filed an internal human rights complaint last December.
Employees were told it was injecting religion into the workplace.
"When do you draw the line when one person's human rights infringe on another person's human rights?" asked veteran Canada Post carrier Orvel Murphy Jr., who alongside another carrier was recently disciplined by management for using the departure blessing after he was instructed not to.
"It's my right to express myself," he added, saying sometimes carriers would even use the phrase sarcastically if the weather was particularly bad.
If any of the carriers thank the Lord again, Murphy Jr. said they'll face suspension.
Murphy Jr., who has been with the Cornwall office for 35 years,recalled a time when area schoolchildren would paint Christmas scenes on the windows at the Canada Post office. There also used to be anoffice Christmas tree and a Christmas party, he said.
Top officials of the local Canadian Union of Postal Workers allegedly supported the complainant in the phrase controversy, but the union's shop steward said the majority of the 45 or so carriers in theoffice feel the phrase ban takes political-correctness too far.
"I've said it in the past, and I didn't mean anything religious by it," said James Lepage, who's been with the Cornwall post office for19 years.
"Most people here feel it's ridiculous. It's not preaching, and it's not pushing religious beliefs."
Tim Bourgon, the retired president of the local mail carriers' union, described the phrase as a "stress reliever" within the office.
Canada Post area manager Cavelle Lane confirmed that the phrase ban was implemented about one month ago, but noted there was more to the decision than meets the eye, citing human rights issues she couldnot discuss without a breach of privacy.
After checking with supervisors, another Canada Post spokesman,Martine Lepine, said the matter was handled internally and Canada Post wouldn't comment on the details of the decision.
"An investigation was conducted, and a decision was made, which involves management and the union," Lepine said.
He added that the decision is not a Canada Post-wide policy.