Jul 292014


Powell River Peak

Editorial: Public pressure

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canadians concerned that personal information could be breached by an American munitions manufacturer can breathe a little easier.Eve Stegenga, a yoga teacher and massage therapist from Lund, had her trial last week for not completing her 2011 mandatory Canadian census form. While she was found guilty of violating the Statistics Act, she was able to bring more attention to two important developments: that the number of Canadian households which were non-compliant in completing is much higher than initially reported and Lockheed Martin will no longer be involved with the Canadian census.

Stegenga is one of 54 non-compliant Canadians whose cases were referred to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada for not completing the form in 2011. When contacted last fall about the levels of non-compliance, a spokesperson for Statistics Canada said that only a small number refused to comply with the mandatory census.

One of the cases, heard in October 2013, concerned an 89-year-old war veteran and peace activist Audrey Tobias. In that trial, which ultimately found Tobias not guilty, the Crown prosecutor brought Yves Beland, director of census operations division at Statistics Canada, to testify. Stegenga was given Beland’s testimony to help her prepare her case.

Beland under oath said that out of approximately 14 million households, 1.6 million did not return completed forms, which, at 11 per cent, is much higher than the previously reported two per cent.

He also testified that in 2004 after Lockheed Martin was granted the contract to develop software to process the paper forms and merge them with completed forms collected online, public pressure began to mount.

Statistics Canada reacted by substantially scaling back Lockheed’s contract for the 2006 census, reduced it further for 2011 and removed the corporation’s involvement completely for 2016.Imagine the trouble and expense that could have been averted if this fact was brought to light a little sooner.

Stegenga does not object to the usefulness of the government collecting information about its citizenry. What she and others, including 20 members of parliament in 2004, were concerned about was the possibility that the US government through the use of the Patriot Act might be able to access confidential information provided by Canadians.

Beland responded that Statistics Canada took the matter seriously and descoped Lockheed’s mandate right away.

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