Jul 292014

Importantly, see also:  MAYBE Lockheed Martin (U.S. weapons, surveillance, war) is OUT of the Canadian Census? (Tobias, Stegenga & other trials)

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The Powell River Peak

PRINCIPLED PROTEST: Eve Stegenga’s almost year-long wait has ended after a judge ruled that despite her moral objections to the 2011 Canadian census being handled by a US weapons maker she did not have any lawful excuse for not completing the federal form.
Yoga teacher found guilty by not completing census
by Chris Bolster | reporter@prpeak.com
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:51 AM PDT

A 37-year-old yoga instructor from Lund who refused to complete the 2011 Canadian census because of its link to an American military contractor was found guilty of violating the Statistics Act, a BC provincial court judge has decided.Karen (Eve) Stegenga was handed a conditional discharge for her crime of not following government regulations, meaning she will not have a permanent criminal record after completing her sentence of 25 hours of community service within the next six months and an additional three months of probation.

Stegenga will remain on probation until her community service is complete.

Outside the Powell River provincial court house after the ruling Thursday, July 17, Stegenga hugged her supporters. “It’s taking me a little bit of time to feel the relief because this has been building up and holding on for 10 months,” said Stegenga. As a person dedicated to her community, she does not believe her community service will be a burden to complete. She plans to lead Hasya yoga classes, a practice involving prolonged self-induced laughter, yogic breathing and relaxation techniques.

The yoga instructor faced the possibility of a $500 fine and/or three months in jail.

Stegenga represented herself at trial and found both the Crown prosecutor and judge helpful in answering to her questions about how the proceedings should go. She expressed her gratitude for the support of Sandra Finley, a community activist and former leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party who was prosecuted for not filling in the 2006 census. Finley has since moved to BC and helped Stegenga build her defence.

Stegenga argued that she did not file her 2011 census because it was being processed using software from Lockheed Martin. She did not want to support or be associated with the munitions manufacturer in any way and she objected to the Canadian government handing the corporation, which she characterized as “corrupt and immoral,” a lucrative contract.Stegenga, a self-described conscientious Canadian, became increasingly alarmed after reading, in 2011, a newspaper article about the relationship and then researching further Lockheed Martin’s role in the development of software and handling of the census data for the 2006 Canadian census of population.

Stegenga worried that it might be possible information on Canadians could be accessed by the American arms manufacturer, or even the American government if the corporation was forced to turn over data under the US Patriot Act.

Stegenga argued at trial that her Charter rights were violated by being required to answer the short-form census and that Statistics Canada had not done enough to address concerns over the involvement of Lockheed Martin in the processing of the data.

Judge A. E. Rounthwaite, who presided over the case, disagreed with Stegenga’s arguments and found that Stegenga had no lawful reason for not participating in the census.

The judge wrote in her decision that while there is no question of Stegenga’s commitment to peace and democracy, Section 31 of the Statistics Act, which compels all citizens to complete the census with accurate information, does not infringe her freedom of conscience or interfere with her beliefs. In her decision the judge noted, from another case involving census non-compliance, that freedom of conscience does not give citizens “broad licence to disregard or disobey valid statutes on the basis of moral disapproval.” She also ruled that being compelled to participate in the census did not violate Stegenga’s freedom of expression.

“Filling out the form cannot rationally be viewed as an expression of support for Lockheed Martin or the federal government,” she wrote.

The judge also dismissed Stegenga’s abuse of process argument saying that the government’s conduct is not offensive to fair play and decency, elements used in a test to determine if abuse has occurred. Stegenga argued that it was unjust to prosecute citizens, like herself, after the federal government had responded to concerns similar to hers from both members of parliament and the general public, reducing and finally extinguishing the role of Lockheed Martin in the census.

In deciding on a sentence, Rounthwaite said she tried to balance Stegenga’s moral stand with the court’s obligation to deter others from breaking the law.

“I’ve been impressed with the way you’ve presented your case and how you’ve conducted yourself,” the judge said in closing. “What you did in refusing to complete the census was wrong, but we’ve dealt with that now. I think your community is fortunate to have you. It’s nice to see someone who has strong beliefs.”

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