Thousands of Canadians walked a little farther to get their mail Monday as Canada Post began phasing out door-to-door delivery in some communities.

Earlier this year, Canada Post sparked a national outcry when it announced that community mailboxes will replace door-to-door service in 11 communities starting this fall.

It marks the first phase of a five-year program that will ultimately affect about 5 million addresses.

On Monday, service is changing for:

  • 26,400 addresses in Oakville, Ont.
  • 12,500 addresses in Winnipeg
  • 10,450 addresses in Calgary
  • 9,950 addresses in the Halifax neighbourhoods of Lower Sackville and Bedford
  • 8,450 addresses in Fort McMurray
  • 7,900 addresses in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Kanata
  • More than 24,000 addresses in the 5 bedrooms communities of Montreal

In Winnipeg, letter carriers will be taken off routes Monday in West Kilodonan, Garden City and The Maples, according to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The homes affected have the postal code R2P and R2V.

One Winnipeg customer said her community box is just around the corner from her house, and so she has “no concerns” about the change.

“I think it’s good if you’re away for a few days and your mail is there and no one knows really that you’re away,” she told CTV Winnipeg.

Latifa Ait Ben Alla, a Repentigny, Que., resident, said she felt prepared because she received the key to her community box with instructions from Canada Post weeks ago.

“We thought it would be hard to go get our letters every day, but actually, it’s simple, it’s nothing, and in fact it makes us exercise a bit to walk to get our mail,” Ait Ben Alla told CTV Montreal.

But Francine LeClair isn’t happy about having to retrieve her mail from a community box.

“I’ll come get my mail here at the community box, but I’m disappointed. I think it cuts too many jobs,” LeClair said.

The union for Canada Post workers in Montreal says if Stephen Harper’s Conservative government gets voted out in the next federal election, there is a chance for door-to-door mail delivery service to be re-implemented.

“It won't be too late because it’s a five-year plan, and we will be at the beginning of the five-year plan so why not have it come back the way it used to be?” said Alain Duguay, Montreal president of the Union of Canada Post workers.

The union has launched a constitutional challenge in federal court over the change, saying it violates the rights of senior citizens and people living with disabilities.

“I still think it stinks,” Stratford, Ont., resident Gordon Moore told CTV News, adding that Canada Post failed to consider senior citizens in its decision.

“Their excuse is everybody does stuff on the Internet,” he said. “But getting back to the seniors again, we’re not good at the Internet.”

In February, Canada Post said it understands that some customers may be unable to access a community mailbox, “and it is committed to ensuring that no one is left behind from accessing the mail service.

“As it transitions existing neighbourhoods like these, it may need to offer additional solutions for people with significant mobility challenges, who lack viable alternatives and would face unacceptable hardship.”

Canada Post says like it or not, its business model has changed. The Internet has hurt mail delivery with email and online banking.

However, Canada Post has carved out a boon in parcel delivery, which has been growing.

“The part of our business that is growing, and we’re doing everything we can to grow that business, is online shopping and delivering the parcels and delivering the parcels back in terms of returns,” Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said.

This holiday season the crown corporation is beefing up services to accommodate online shoppers.

“A lot of the Christmas shopping that Canadians are going to do, is going to be delivered by Canada Post, so we’re adding staff and we’re adding weekend service on some weekends,” Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, door-to-door mail delivery will not change for apartment buildings, seniors’ homes or condominiums that have delivery service to a lobby or mailroom, or for customers who have their mail delivered to a rural box at the end of their driveway. Most businesses in larger communities will also retain door-to-door service.

Canada Post estimates that moving the five million addresses to community mailboxes will eventually save between $400 million and $500 million annually.

Canada Post’s goal is to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery entirely within the next five years.

With files from CTV Montreal and CTV Winnipeg