Mar 312010

Statistics Canada is authorized to conduct a “census” every five years and “surveys” in between censuses.

This posting addresses the experience of Susan Crowther in relation to StatsCan “surveys” .  Other people have had similar experiences.

People should know their rights when Statistics Canada knocks on their door.

  • Data collection is for a “census” or for a “survey”.   The Statistics Act says specifically that surveys are voluntary;  there are no sanctions if you say “no” to filling out a StatsCan survey.  The applicable sections of the Act (not difficult to understand) and the reasoning are at  Are StatsCan surveys mandatory?  Interpretation of the Law.     
  • Click on  Charter Right for the law regarding privacy of personal information which applies to censuses and to surveys.

UPDATE:     July 2012.  Statistics Canada continues to use intimidation to force people to hand over personal information in on-going “surveys”.   I filed a complaint with the Federal Privacy Commissioner,  see  2012-07-13  StatsCan Surveys, Complaint to the Privacy Commissioner

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From my conversation with Susan:  she has been harassed and intimidated by StatsCan.  She is ex-military and finds the whole thing scary.

She was first contacted in January 2010.  She declined to supply information.  StatsCan has been relentless through February and March in attempts to obtain her personal information.

Susan did not previously know about the role of Lockheed Martin and IBM in the Canadian census which makes it that much more threatening.

Sue feels that she doesn’t have a choice about whether she will or will not hand over personal information – she CANNOT bow to StatsCan’s threats of jail time and a fine. Citizens don’t have rights if they aren’t willing to stand up and fight for them.

Until recently Susan had not known about my trial over the 2006 census.  One of my emails was forwarded to her.

I was VERY surprised that StatsCan would use the threat of jail and a fine against Susan when this is not even during the census (May, 2011 is our next census.)

I told Susan Crowther that there are thousands of people across Canada who support her.  We will stay in touch.

Even if StatsCan does not follow through on its threats against Susan I believe that charges need to be laid against StatsCan.  It is operating outside the law and using the threat of jail-time and fines to coerce people into disclosing personal information.

I am further motivated by the CBC news report  (Armoured vehicles adopted by B.C. RCMP). I responded to it by putting out an alert for people to go to their City Councils on a pre-emptive basis to stop the plan.

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See Are StatsCan surveys mandatory?  Interpretation of the Law.   

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NOTE RE:   The agency keeps calling and the law says Crowther must respond.

This statement by the CBC is not true.   The law does NOT say that Crowther must respond.


The data collection that is mandatory from citizens under the Act is:

  • “a census of population” (number of people) and the agriculture census (number of cows).  Once every five years.

Statistics Canada currently threatens people with jail time and a fine if they do not respond to its surveys.  This is the experience of Sue Crowther in Edmonton and of personal friends of mine in Saskatoon – all happening since the beginning of 2010.

Statistics Canada is guilty of threats, intimidation and coercion.   It is doing this with utter disregard for the Law.

Edmonton woman spurns StatsCan survey

Last Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 5:46 PM MT

CBC News

Sue Crowther answered Statistics Canada’s initial round of questions for its labour-force survey, but has rebuffed the agency’s follow-up queries. (CBC)

An Edmonton woman says she’s prepared to fight Statistics Canada for the right not to answer a survey.

The federal statistical agency first called Sue Crowther three months ago as part of its labour-force survey, which is used to tabulate the unemployment rate.

Crowther answered those questions — about how much she makes and where she works — but when agents called back a month later for a follow-up, she rebuffed them.

“It would have been far easier for me to have just answered the darn question, but it’s the issue that I do not have the right to not answer,” she said.

The agency keeps calling and the law says Crowther must respond. According to the federal Statistics Act, anyone who doesn’t answer a major Statistics Canada survey faces up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

“That is simply due to the importance of those current statistics to all levels of government,” Statistics Canada spokesperson Sherry Wallace said.

So far no one who has refused the labour-force survey has ever been prosecuted, according to Statistics Canada.

Crowther said that she hopes she’s not the first but is prepared to go to court to make her point.

“I am very proud to be a Canadian — let me rephrase that, I have been very proud to be a Canadian, only to discover that what made me the proudest is an illusion. We do not have the rights and freedoms that we think we have.”

Copyright © CBC 2010

  10 Responses to “2010-03-31 Edmontonian Susan Crowther threatened by StatsCan. Statistics Act, what is a census and what is a survey? What is the law? StatsCan is operating way outside the law.”

  1. I am in the exact situation as Susan, the only problem is they(Stats Can) have more money to pay their lawyers than I do. I give in or go to jail and lose my job. I know what I would do but I have a family.

    • I have been harassed for the last 6 months and when I thought the sanctity of my home was already free from those calls, they have just started calling my daughter (indicating that she has been chosen now for the survey). We as a family have decided not to answer any more questions for this surveys. It is a matter of principles. It happens that my daughter is doing a Human Rights degree at university. A great example from Sue Crowther. Well done.

  2. Hello Richard,

    Your son’s efforts to obtain information from the people responsible, and to hold them to account, is the work of citizens in a democracy. Many thanks to both him AND you, from thousands of other Canadians.

    It takes a while to build a critical mass of informed people. I hope it will hearten you to know that the distance we have come in 10 years on the StatsCan / Lockheed Martin / census / survey topic is substantial.

    (Good grief! I can hardly believe it was 2003 when the public began to spread the word about what was happening in StatsCan. It started over the involvement of Lockheed Martin Corporation in the census.)

    By now we’ve learned a lot that is worth knowing, just by working on it. (Though, to be sure, I never thought I’d still be on this one issue 10 years later!)

    More and more people join our ranks all the time. (I can tell by the number of “hits” on the blog, and by the people like you, that take time to do something, and to talk to others.)

    The simple act of “talking to others” is absolutely critical to a functioning democracy. Bless you for coming to that realization yourself. This is no time in Canadian history to be dialoguing with the TV set!! – – I sometimes start up conversations with strangers, carefully, but it always turns out to be both fun and enlightening. Most people are great and have interesting stories.

    I expect two developments in the short term:
    – The decision of the Sask Court of Appeal in my trial should be out pretty soon.
    – As you may have noticed from the blog, I too lodged a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. I periodically contact them to find out their progress with the complaint. It went to StatsCan for reply some months ago. It now goes back-and-forth up-and-down the lines. For how long I can’t tell. Whether there will be a positive outcome, I can’t tell. To me it doesn’t matter which way it goes. If it goes the wrong way, it will add to the rage that is out there. Canadians know what is right and what is wrong.

    Note: if you wish to go on an email dis’n list, please tell me. The blog is basically the emails that I send out from time-to-time.

    Not everyone in the network agrees with my points-of-view on the various issues we’ve worked on. And I wouldn’t want everyone to agree with everything!

    Best wishes,
    Sandra Finley

  3. Hi, I just thought I would let everyone know that this is happening in Manitoba as well. I did the first survey which had something to do about national parks, (which was way longer than I expected). I did not want to do it in the first place but they hounded our phone and told us it was required by law.

    We chose not to answer the phone because we were getting those surveys from stats can as well as those bogus ” you’ve won a trip on a cruise ” phonecalls. Stats can sent one of their agents to our house, she was not rude only stated that she needed to complete the survey and if we were busy she could come back or do it over the phone, and it so happend we were busy and she left and told us she would call again.

    We have now chosen to not answer the “not mandatory” survey from stats can.

    It has got to the point where they call every hour from a different number.
    Just today I believe there were 11 calls from 8am to 10pm.

  4. Thanks Chris – your input is appreciated.

    You may have noticed the recent postings re civil disobedience over Lockheed Martin’s involvement (Eve Stegenga, Janet Churnin, following Audrey Tobias).

    Another important addition to the CONTEXT within which StatsCan is building detailed files on citizens is the CBC Report on the “billion dollar Spy Palace” that you and I have now contributed to, as serfs of the realm.

    (easiest to find the articles by going to “Postings by date” (right-hand sidebar). Click on November. Generates a list of the postings this month, with thumbnail sketch of each, that you can expand.)

  5. Hi Sandra,

    I just want to thank you for providing a forum for this issue. I have found it amazing that in so many countries at this time hundreds of thousands of people are standing up to dictatorial tactics imposed on them by various governments – and I now know how why they are doing it. Like others who have written to you we are being pressured by Stats Canada to participate in the Labour Force Survey. It is all very creepy and insidious.
    For several weeks now we have been getting phone calls from someone trying to get us to do this “survey”. Our response has been what we always do when telemarketers call – we hang up! Then a couple of weeks ago we got a letter from Stats Canada telling us that it is “Mandatory” that we participate in this – with a threat of jail time and a large fine if we didn’t cooperate. We did some research – found your very informative site – and then threw the letter in the garbage where it belongs. Nevertheless the phone keeps ringing, at various times, from early morning to late at night.
    This evening, however, was really the worst – there were 2 calls between 5:15 and 6:00, and then at 7:45 some woman from Stats Can FORCED OPEN our locked screen door and started pounding on our door. My husband opened the door and told her to get lost at which time she said “Stats Canada”, as if that was supposed to mean we should let her in. He slammed the door on her. But a few moments later she opened the screen door again and we could hear her doing something with the door. He opened it again and she was trying to put a note on it. He tore the note off, told her she was trespassing, and once again told her to get lost, at which point she finally left. After this encounter we are now wondering if we are living in some kind of Gestapo state – and they say Canada is a “free country”? Not only is this highly disconcerting, but it greatly underscores the fact that Canadian citizens NEED TO KNOW what is going on. The fact that the Canadian government would resort to this much harassment just to get people to fill out a survey is truly SCAREY! This should NOT be happening in this country or in any other! I am normally a fairly easy-going, law abiding citizen, but after being subjected to this I now find myself ready to become an anti-government protestor – and I applaud all those brave souls in so many countries who are revolting against dictatorships. Time to wake up Canada – we are not “free” if we cave in to such tactics.
    Mad as hell on a Sunday night in British Columbia.

  6. I rec’d my initial letter re. Labour Force Survey from Stats Can on July 16th. Since then they’ve contacted me via phone on July 19, 20, 21, 27, Aug 16 & 17.

    On July 27 I requested to speak with a Supervisor & asked where EXACTLY in the Statistics Act it said it was mandatory, she said she would send me a letter stating exactly in the Act where it said the LF Survey was mandatory.

    I received a second letter from Stats Can on Aug 13 which said “The Statistics Act requires that you participate in this survey…”.

    On Aug 16th I told the Stats Can employee who called that I was still waiting for the letter that was promised to me & the one they sent did not answer my question. She knew exactly what was in the letter I received & said that the Act does not say it’s mandatory. I told her I was happy to finally have this issue resolved. She still tried to persuade me saying that Stats Can “was authorized to conduct the survey”; I said I knew that, however it was not mandatory that I comply. She insisted that some surveys were mandatory however, but indicated the LF Survey was NOT mandatory. She then said that since our address was “randomly selected” someone from Stats Can would be calling every month for 6 months to verify that I was still living at this address.

    The following day (Aug 17th) I received a call from another employee of Stats Can who first verified my address & called me by my first name – something a previous Stats Can employee told me they did not know. She was very loud, hardly gave me a chance to talk & gave me the impression she was a supervisor (although she never said that). Her manner came across as demanding & intimidating. She knew that I’d requested a letter stating the exact place in the Act that stated the LF Survey was mandatory & asked if I’d received the letter. I told her I had received it, but it did not answer my question & I was still waiting for the letter promised to me by the Stats Can Supervisor who called me on July 27th.

    I also asked why she was calling since I’d received a call the day before from a Stats Can employee who told me that the LF Survey was not mandatory. She immediately wanted to know the name of the employee & seemed to be quite annoyed by what I’d been told. I gave her the name of the employee & was told she didn’t know who that person was & asked which office she worked out of. I told her I had to idea since I hadn’t been told. She informed me that she personally worked in the Winnipeg Office & the Supervisor who promised me the letter also worked out of the Winnipeg Office but had just left for the day & she would talk to her & ask about letter I’d requested.

    I’m sure this is far from over. I will now be “standing firm” in my request & their promise of a letter stating EXACTLY where in the Act it states the LF Survey is mandatory. Until they honour my simple request I can not honour theirs. All the same, this is very frustrating & upsetting.

    • Thank you for your on-going updates, Karen. I have been away and am behind.

      The situation is indeed very stressful. This would not be happening to you and others if StatsCan and Public Works had listened to the thousands of Canadians back in 2003 who said, “DO NOT contract out work on the Canadian census to Lockheed Martin Corporation”, and with good reason.

      The Government never could justify the contracting-out, Lockheed Martin has broken just about every rule of human decency, let alone law, that there is to break.

      Canadians like to see themselves as contributing to the good being done in the World – – not to the corruption, the torture, the police state tactics, illegal weapons and illegal war associated with Lockheed Martin Corporation.

      The Government makes a big mistake thinking that we do not care what they do in our name.

      Your resolve to hold Statistics Canada accountable, and in a principled way is laudable. We can have faith in each other.

      Thank-you once again, Karen.

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