Friday, October 11, 2013

Save the census; send this woman to jail

A Toronto judge acquitted 79-year old Audrey Tobias despite her refusal to complete the mandatory portion of the 2011 census. She didn't approve of the company hired to do technical work on the census, so she refused to do it.

The judge acquitted her because she is old and so, he said, she might have been confused and bewildered about the whole thing. He wasn't sure, he said, if she really intended to refuse to complete the census. Ms Tobias is grateful for being acquitted, but she continues to boast she knew exactly what she was doing and was willing to experience a jail sentence.

Ms. Tobias's act was similar to that of the government when it made the long-form part of the 2011 census voluntary -- and therefore, it is clear, mostly worthless. In refusing the remaining part, Ms. Tobias too was deliberately trying to sabotage knowledge about this country in order to score a political point.  Okay the government didn't actually commit a crime, since it has the authority to manage census-taking, and its penalty should be political not juridical. But for citizens, the law should take its course; the census is too important to become optional for anyone with a political opinion.

Ms.Tobias says she did willingly and deliberately commit a crime. She's right. Refusing to comply with census regulations is the same as refusing to pay taxes, serve on juries, and perform the other responsibillities of citizenship. If you are determined to be civilly disobedient, you should be willing to do the time, and Ms. Tobias apparently was. Even though she is a little older than most of us, the judge should have taken her at her word, instead of excusing and encouraging destructive and uncivil behaviour.

Follow @CmedMoore