A Victory for Civil Rights! . . . er, Sort Of

Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press/Chris Young

With recent news of nations spying on nations and a defunct government hoping its people will trust it once again, a recent ruling in favor of one individual’s civil rights in Canada comes as a ray of hope for North America.

The 89-year-old, red-haired, and bespectacled Audrey Tobias was clearly the wrong person to mess with.

In fact, it was her upstanding record and pleasant demeanor (and most likely old age) that moved the judge to “have pity” on this symbol of peaceful resistance and acquit her of the charges from Statistics Canada for refusing to complete a census processed with software from Lockheed Martin.

Who wouldn’t?

But for me, the downside to this victory for liberty is the judge’s reasoning for dropping the charges.

Was it because he agreed with Tobias’s pro bono lawyer that the enforcement of her participation in the census was a violation of her rights and freedoms granted by the charter?


Was it because he sympathized with Tobias’s refusal to provide personal information to a company with a long history of working for the United States National Security Agency and producing weapons of war?

Not at all.

According to the CBC, judge Ramez Khawly “rejected the charter arguments, but said that Tobias’s memory and some conflicting testimony left him with reasonable doubt as to her intent at the time of the refusal.”

Basically, to the judge, Tobias simply looked like this:


His reasoning might as well have been, “Aww, poor granny . . . she can’t remember why she refused to comply with the census in the first place! She must be delusional. Idn’t that cute? Not guilty!

From my experience, it seems like the judicial system is ready to dismiss or laugh off a charter challenge at the drop of a hat. (Don’t get me started on my experience fighting a photo radar ticket . . . that’s for another blog entry.) But as Statistics Canada nears its 100-year anniversary, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the necessity of a mandatory census and respect the conscience of those who choose to opt out.

tobias cartoon

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