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Judge to decide Oct. 9 in trial of woman who refused to do census

A judge will make a ruling next Wednesday in a trial against an 89-year-old woman who refused to fill out the national census.

Audrey Tobias, a long time peace activist, was in a packed Toronto courtroom on Thursday, arguing she refused to take part in the census because the company which created the hardware and software for it is a U.S. weapons manufacturer.

She pleaded not guilty to the charge of refusing or neglecting to return the census. If found guilty by the judge next week Tobias faces a $500 fine and could serve a 90-day jail sentence.

“I would like to see us on the path to peaceful solutions and we don’t get there by having business with companies like Lockheed,” Tobias said.

Lockheed Martin Canada, a subsidiary of global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin based in Maryland, was awarded a $43.3 million Statistics Canada outsourcing contract in 2006.

Tobias testified she did not object to the form or its questions, and said if another company had created it she would have “probably” filled it out.

There is a legal obligation to fill out the form, the Crown argued, and said Canadians are not free to “pick and choose” which laws they follow.

“I think this country disobeyed its own laws to go outside this country to get that contract…I’m ashamed of my government so I couldn’t fill it in,” Tobias said.

Another issue Tobias has with the census is that she claims Lockheed Martin is obligated to give any data it collects from another country to the U.S. government if requested under the U.S. Patriot Act.

“That information should be kept in Canada and not with the U.S. Canada is known for its excellent information technology companies that could have taken the contract; there is no need to use an American weapons company,” Tobias said in a release on Tuesday.

Yves Belland, the director of census operations for Statistics Canada, testified Thursday that is was not possible for Lockheed to have a built-in system that would automatically access the information of Canadians.

“We have a system, a group of programmers to code review, to make sure there is no back door,” he said.

“We lock it down,” he testified, adding there were no security breaches in 2006 and 2011. Belland said data had never left the country.

“[Lockheed] has no access to StatsCan data. They provide the solution, but we have the staff. We handle the data,” he said.

On its website, Statistics Canada states “no contractor will ever have access to confidential census responses.”

The census is conducted every five years by Statistics Canada and collects data about Canadian citizens. In 2011, the government sent out 14.6 million requests and got 98 per cent response rate, Belland said.