A 79-year-old Toronto woman on trial for refusing to fill out the mandatory census in 2011 has told a court she had serious concerns over a U.S. arms maker’s involvement in the process.
Janet Churnin says she was worried information on Canada’s population was at risk because she thought it could be accessed by defence company Lockheed Martin, or even the U.S. government if it made the corporation turn over the data under its Patriot Act.
Statistics Canada has said the government contracted Lockheed Martin to provide software for its census operations in 2003, and used the custom-built systems for both the 2006 and 2011 census.
It says Lockheed Martin had no access to its data operation centre or its census response database.
But Churnin’s lawyer has suggested there are concerns Lockheed Martin could have built a “back door” into its software, which could potentially put the Canadian data at risk.
Peter Rosenthal argues that Churnin’s Charter rights were violated by being required to answer the short-form census because Statistics Canada didn’t do enough to address her concerns.
“I’m not asking you to find that Lockheed Martin did anything, we don’t know that they did,” Rosenthal told the judge presiding over the case.
“I’m asking you to find that Ms. Churnin has the right to refuse to provide data given the way that Statistics Canada dealt with concerns that Lockheed Martin might obtain the data.”
Churnin has been charged with violating the Statistics Act and faces a possible fine and three months in jail.
Her case is similar to that of an 89-year-old peace activist who also refused to fill out the 2011 census.
In that case, Audrey Tobias was found not guilty in October by a Toronto judge who soundly criticized the government for trying to prosecute someone who was a “model citizen.”
Tobias was in court to support Churnin on Wednesday, saying there was no other place she’d rather be.
In 2011, StatsCan received 13 million completed census forms, a 98 per cent response rate. Overall, it referred 54 people for prosecution for failing to complete the mandatory census form.