Objection to census could land alumnus in jail

Todd Stelmach boycotted 2006 census due to Statistics Canada’s connection to contractor Lockheed Martin

Todd Stelmach, Rehab ’00, could face up to three months in prison and a $300 fine for refusing to fill out his 2006 census form.
Todd Stelmach, Rehab ’00, could face up to three months in prison and a $300 fine for refusing to fill out his 2006 census form.

A Queen’s alumnus and Kingston resident is facing a $300 fine and up to three months in prison for refusing to fill out his 2006 census form. Todd Stelmach, Rehab ’00, will appear in court Mar. 5 to plead not guilty.

Stelmach said between 64 and 68 other Canadians are facing charges for failing to return a completed census, a criminal offence according to the Census Act.

“There is only one other I know of pleading not guilty,” he said. “I think I had good reason not to return the Census. I have the chance to get my point out. It’s a moral and conscious argument.”

Stelmach’s next court date is set for Mar. 5 in Brockville.

“I’m representing myself because the fines are less than it would cost for a lawyer. I’ve been negotiating with the court system on my own,” he said. “Everyone has been really gracious to me. The crown’s been very kind.”

Stelmach had received an expanded version of the 2006 census questionnaire and initially planned to return it with no questions asked.

“I had filled out my census when my wife and I heard about a group on CBC Radio,” he said.

The group, Count Me Out, called for “minimum co-operation with the May 2006 census” on its website. The group objects to the outsourcing of the Census software and data processing to Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Stelmach said he shared the ethical objections of returning a census which would support Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor.

He said Lockheed Martin Corporation was contracted by Statistics Canada for the 2011 Census.

“I’m calling for any Canadian to minimally co-operate or not return their census.”

“As a Christian, I am very much against war. Lockheed Martin said they don’t build cluster bombs but they build all the components for them.”

After hearing about the Count Me Out campaign, Stelmach and his wife decided to send a letter of explanation to Statistics Canada and researched the possible consequences of their actions.

“Instead [of census forms] we sent in a letter. Only I signed it,” he said. “We looked into the Statistics Act. There is a possible fine or two or three months in prison,” he said. “We talked and prayed about it and we’re willing to face these consequences.”

Following their letter, two people from Statistics Canada talked to Stelmach about filling out the census. When he explained his objections to the census, Statistics Canada notified him that they had passed on his case to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

“Then nothing happened for almost two years. In May 2008, RCMP arrived at my door with a summons.”

The night before he received his summons, Stelmach had received a call from his sister-in-law telling him the RCMP was looking for him.

“I appeared in Court in May. That’s when I started connecting with media.”

Stelmach said 1.4 million Canadians did not return their 2006 census forms.

“It’s something that seems to resonate with Canadians,” he said.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.