Wendyle Jones joked that he had won the governmental lottery. On Oct. 31 Jones was in court facing a charge of furnishing false, unlawful or incomplete information resulting from his refusal to fill out a census form.
Jones said he had told the census taker he wasn’t interested in participating. But that first visit was only the beginning. The Nakusp man said he was visited by half a dozen more people after that, and eventually received a notification that he had been charged.
“In my opinion it’s a giant waste of taxpayers’ money,” Jones told the Arrow Lakes News. “The government already has all my financial and medical information. I can’s see what they’d want to know that they don’t know already.”
But the cost of not filling out the form – up to three months in jail, $500, or both if proven guilty – is too high for the single dad who needs his passport to help his daughter take part in the Rotary exchange.
Statistics Canada said 98 per cent of Canadians did complete and send in their surveys, but 54 cases where the individual twice refused to complete a census form were referred for prosecution.
So far, no person has ever been sentenced to a jail term for failing to complete a census form.
Stats Can stressed that census information is very important and that it is “critical” that everyone be included. For example, the population count is used to determine transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces, or from the provinces to municipalities. Population figures are also used in the determination of the number and boundaries of electoral districts. Information collected is also used by all levels of government and businesses to make informed decisions, and communities also use census info to plan public services like schools, housing, and transportation, Gabrielle Beaudoin, Director General of Communications at Statistics Canada told the Arrow Lakes News.
That may be so, said Jones, but he doesn’t trust the government will take good care of his information.
“The government doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to taking care of personal info,” Jones said. He pointed to recent reports in the news such as the loss of a Vancouver Coastal Health laptop containing personal information in a taxicab, and a report about rising numbers of complaints from people believing information collected by the Canada Revenue Agency was being accessed inappropriately.
A lifetime oath of secrecy keeps Stats Can employees from releasing any info they collect, and the penalties if they break it is twice what Jones was facing, as well as more routine security such as physical access and encryption of files.
But the single father has learned to pick his battles, and intends to fill out the census form, this time.