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Acquittal of 89-year old who refused to fill out Census Report

Acquittal of 89-year old who refused to fill out Census Report

Audrey Tobias, an 89 year old, won her court case after being prosecuted for refusing to fill out a census form in 2011. Tobias, who is a peace activest, had admitted that she refused to fill out the census forms with her personal information because the software processing that information was owned by U.S. military contractor Lockheed Martin. The judge presiding over her case, Ontario Court Judge Ramez Khawly, noted that the Crown must prove that there was an act and intent to commit a crime by Tobias.

After Tobias’s testimony, Judge Kawly was unsure whether she was accurately recalling her intent for refusing the census in 2011, or if the passage of time had dimmed her memory. This lack of criminal intent, Judge Khawly pointed out, meant that there was reasonable doubt, and that was enough to acquit her from the charge against her under the Statistics Act. Tobias’s lawyer had fought the charge on basis that filling out the form was a violation of her charter of rights, especially her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

Over 3700 Canadians refused to fill out the census, and Statistics Canada had specifically penned in Tobias as one of those people who they recommended to be tried for her refusal. Judge Khawly argued that the Department of Justice could have not gone ahead with their prosecution of Tobias seeing as she was an peace activist, was elderly and a model citizen.Judge Khawly also criticized that persecuting someone that had Tobias’s credentials was going to be a public relations disaster for the Department of Justice, and should have steered far away once they looked into her circumstances.

Edward Prutschi, a criminal lawyer and partner at Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman, was a special guest to comment on this case and the judge’s unusual ruling. Mr. Prutschi discusses that the ruling was curious because clearly a crime was committed, which Tobias had admitted, and the judge failed to give an adequate legal reasoning as to why he came up with this decision. Mr. Prutschi discusses that a guilty verdict, to most legal observers, would have been the right call in this case, whereby Tobias would be given a nominal fine (this charge carries a maximum fine of $500) and she would have been given no jail time. Listen to the rest of Mr. Prutschi’s discussion on NewsTalk1010 with Jerry Agar.

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