Open Letter to Statistics Canada: We Refuse to Cooperate With a Process That Profits The World's Leading Weapons Manufacturer and a Corporation Complicit in Torture

To Douglas Newson
Director, Central Region
2006 Census
Statistics Canada
25 St. Clair Ave. East
Toronto, ON

cc: Maxime Bernier
Minister responsible for Statistics Canada

August 22, 2006

Dear Friends,

We write to you today because your employees have repeatedly threatened us with jail and fines for refusing to fill out the 2006 Census form. When asked why we should fill out the form, we are told, brusquely, "because it is the law."

Attempts to explain our non-cooperation with this process are met with the standard response: "THE LAW requires that you do this."

History shows that blind obedience to the law is dangerous. Ignoring the context of a refusal to cooperate with an unjust law or situation leads us down the road of the jackboot. Indeed, as eminent historian Howard Zinn writes, "to declare that the law in all circumstances is to be obeyed is to suppress the very spirit of democracy, to surrender individual conscience to an omnipotent state."

Perhaps that is why we are lucky to live in a land where, on paper at least, all people are guaranteed freedom of conscience. And having considered the issue of census cooperation in 2006, we refuse to make a butchery of our conscience.

Some brief explanation is in order here. As individuals, we devote almost all of our time to ending war and its causes, and to working with those brutalized by Canada's war economy. Therefore, we refuse to cooperate with a process that profits the world's leading weapons producer and war enabler, Lockheed Martin, a corporation contracted by the government of Canada to do a significant amount of census work.

Lockheed Martin continues to promote, produce, and profit from the most frightening weapons of mass destruction known to humanity, including nuclear weapons whose ferocity is many times the explosive power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

In 1996, the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal under the principles of international humanitarian law. Lockheed Martin's work violates those very principles.

As we write, Lockheed Martin technology is being used to murder the people of Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other nations around the globe.

Lockheed Martin is also complicit in torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay, where its subcontracted interrogation teams have participated in acts condemned universally by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and internal Pentagon investigations.

Need we remind you that torture, and complicity in torture, are serious offences under the Canadian Criminal Code?

Further information on the insidious work of Lockheed Martin is available at , at, and, among many other sources.

We also refuse to comply with your command because we object to the hypocrisy of government announcements about blind obedience to the law.

Can this be the same Government of Canada that daily violates the rule of law when it arbitrarily imprisons human beings for years without charge on secret evidence, and works to deport them to a country where electric shocks will be shot through their tongues, ears, and genitals?

Can this be the same Canada that regularly violates numerous covenants on social and economic rights, including the UN Charter, as it allows human beings to freeze to death on the wintry streets of our cities even though the United Nations has declared poverty and lack of affordable housing in this country a "national emergency" that requires immediate attention?

Can this be the same Canada that is regularly chided by the UN for failure to address centuries-old First Nations grievances?

Can this be the same Canada that violates its own law by its refusal to implement a refugee appeal division for the thousands of individuals who, having sought safety here, are annually deported to an uncertain, dangerous fate?

Can this be the same Canada that sends its young men and women to the illegal occupation of Afghanistan and instructs them to disregard the Geneva Conventions when turning over detainees to U.S. forces known to engage in torture and murder of those in its custody?

Can this be the same Canada that regularly exports machine guns, bullets, armoured vehicles, and countless other billions in weapons sales to countries that abuse human rights?

Can this be the same Canada that appears to allow landing and refueling privileges for CIA rendition-to-torture flights?

We recognize the need for compliance with specific laws, whether they be those that contribute to road safety or those, such as the Nuremberg Principles, that remind us not only of our rights, but of our responsibilities, to prevent crimes against peace.

We are told the government of Canada requires census information to develop social and economic programs to meet the needs of its citizens. Fair enough. Yet year after year, the United Nations and other international bodies have to remind the Canadian government that it does little to deliver on its legal obligations to fulfill those very social and economic needs. So what, really, is the point of all this if the government will produce fine statistics about poverty, homelessness, women facing male violence, lack of child care, and other social crises, when there is no serious commitment to meet those needs? Lockheed Martin will make a pretty penny, but millions will remain left in the dust.

Daily, we work with the victims of the Canadian government's own hypocrisy and criminality.

Some of them include the over 13,000 human beings who face deportation to grave injustices because they have not been allowed a transparent, legally mandated appeal. Yes, their unhappy fate is linked directly to the Canadian government's refusal to abide by its own law, one that required the creation of a refugee appeal division when the legislation came into effect 4 years and some 50,000 deportations ago.

Others we work with include some of the 250,000 homeless, 3 million people who use food banks, or 5 million people one paycheque away from the street, to whom we distribute food and clothing at the foot of a downtown armoury, highlighting the stark contradiction of a society that fails to provide food and shelter while it spends countless billions on warfare.

In a society with such horribly misplaced priorities, it is the Lockheed Martins and their ilk that act as predator and profiteer, sniffing opportunity in government corridors where their long record of corporate corruption and bribery somehow gets glossed over as they unaccountably gobble up taxpayers' dollars.

Faced with nuclear weapons in 1961, the late British philosopher and activist Bertrand Russell declared plainly: "This idea of weapons of mass destruction is utterly horrible...I will not pretend to obey a government which is organizing a massacre of mankind."

The evidence is irrefutable that Lockheed Martin continues to promote, provide for, and profit from ongoing massacres of humankind around the globe. We will not pretend to obey an order to participate in a process that contributes to the coffers of Lockheed Martin. We will not pretend all is well when the Canadian government daily violates its own legal commitments to the very social and economic guarantees that are supposed to be at the root of census collection.

We recognize that writing this letter no doubt places us in the line of prosecution when we could have found easier ways to avoid the knocks on the door or the incessant phone calls. But we recognize that the only way to promote positive social change is to expose, acknowledge, and confront injustice, even if that means some form of personal risk.

Given that the threats levied against us have not convinced us of the justness of your command, it is unlikely that prosecution itself and the rest of your threats will make us change our minds or make us remorseful for this nonviolent exercise of conscience which, in proper perspective, harms no one.

Better then that the thousands currently spent to track us down and make us comply, the thousands that may be spent in prosecution, serve instead as the seed money for much-needed national non-profit affordable housing, for free AIDS drug distribution overseas, for a poverty elimination program, for water treatment in First Nations communities, for government refresher courses on compliance with this country's international legal obligations, and for all the other social needs that remain unmet in this country as long as the government worships at the altar of war and contracts those who would profit from organized murder.


In Peace

Matthew Behrens

Kevin Shimmin

Toronto (c/o