'Tis the season to be careful
Canada Post discourages lumpy packages
addressed to Santa; Ottawa parade delayed
By GRAEME SMITH AND BRIAN LAGHI
With a report from Heather Scoffield
Friday, November 9, 2001
Terrorists have knocked some of the joy out of Christmas.
More than a million children mailing letters to the North Pole are being warned to avoid enclosing any suspicious materials, such as cookies, in their packages for Santa. Security concerns have delayed the Santa Claus parade in Ottawa.
Even schoolchildren who want to write to soldiers overseas have been cautioned to send e-mail or post cards instead of envelopes.
"Santa Claus loves getting gifts from his young friends, but he's just being a little cautious about opening the mail this year," said Teresa Williams, a spokeswoman for Canada Post in Edmonton.
The 16,000 volunteers, mostly off-duty or retired postal workers, who answer children's letters addressed to postal code HOH OHO often rip open packages containing unusual bribes for Santa: cookies, candy canes, chocolate, soothers, carrots, dog biscuits and, most alarmingly during an anthrax scare, magic dust for making reindeer fly.
Such packages could trigger biohazard precautions this year, Canada Post officials warn. They're urging parents to avoid bulky packages and ensure letters have return addresses and proper postage. "We have to ask parents to be very, very careful this year," said Louise Roy, a spokeswoman for Canada Post in Montreal, where a few public relations staff started the tradition 27 years ago by replying to letters addressed to Santa. The national program has been responding to the world's children for 18 years.
Gloves and masks will be available for workers opening the Christmas letters during the lunch hours at mail-processing facilities. But many postal workers take bundles of letters home and open them with their families around the kitchen table, said Karen Devine, co-ordinator for the program in London, Ont. "I won't send anybody home with a lumpy package this year," Ms. Devine said.
In Ottawa, the Santa Claus parade had to be postponed for a week until Nov. 25 because all available police were needed to provide security for three high-profile international meetings in the city's downtown that would have coincided with the parade. Downtown roads are being blocked off for the meetings as well, interfering with the parade route.
Concerns over bioterrorism have also forced schoolchildren to send their good wishes to Canadian Forces troops via e-mail and post cards rather than in envelopes.
Defence Minister Art Eggleton told the House of Commons yesterday that security concerns are at the root of the suggestion that Canadians send their Christmas wishes to the troops in e-mail or post cards. "We are trying to keep the number of envelopes down, in particular envelopes that do not have return addresses."
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