An 89-year-old Toronto woman who is a Second World War veteran will return to court next week to hear the verdict in a case where she has been charged with refusing to fill out the 2011 census form.
Audrey Tobias faces a criminal charge under the Statistics Act, which makes refusing or neglecting to fill in the census form an offence punishable by a $500 fine and up to three months in prison.
Her case began Thursday morning inside a packed Toronto courtroom. Supporters greeted Tobias with applause when she took the stand.
The CBC's Charlsie Agro reported that Tobias arrived wearing her best suit and was adamant that she would not pay a fine.
Verdict next week
Tobias is set to return next week to hear whether she'll be convicted. The judge's decision is expected next Wednesday.
Tobias, who has become a peace advocate since her time in the Armed Forces, says she decided not to participate in the national census because U.S.-based weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin provides services to the Canadian government to analyze census data.
Statistics Canada purchased Lockheed's software in 2003, and has used it for both the 2006 and 2011 census, a connection cited by several other people charged for their census refusal.
“It was just automatic that I wouldn’t fill it in,” she told CBC News, explaining she won’t support the company for its role in the weapons industry.
“Why is it our country made such a contact?” Tobias said. “It’s an outrage.”
Tobias said she was visited twice by federal employees, and she explained her reasons for not submitting the form. Days later, she received a letter warning her she was being charged with a federal offence.
By law, all Canadian households must fill out a short-form census. About 60 people have been charged for failing to do so, including a British Columbia man who had been hailed a hero for his actions during the Stanley Cup riot in 2011.
Although those convicted could face fines and even jail time, none of the accused who have been charged has gone to prison.
Tobias, a peace activist for some six decades, shrugged off the thought of doing time behind bars.
"Too bad. It just has to be done," she said ahead of Thursday's court appearance.
"The fact of giving the contract to a military company says a great deal of where the sympathies of our government lie.
"We don't want our country to indicate support for that sort of thing," she said.
A spokesperson for federal Industry Minister James Moore waded into the Tobias case Thursday evening.
"This is simply ridiculous. No Canadian should be treated this way," said Jessica Fletcher, Moore's communications director, in a note to CBC News.
A lawyer for Tobias says that she will appeal the decision if she is found guilty.
Audrey has had her hair set and is sporting her best black suit. Adamant she won't pay a fine. #sl— Charlsie Agro (@CBCharlsie) October 3, 2013