Opinions

The long-form census: privacy stolen

 

opinions_placeholderOn Nov. 5, 2015, the newly elected Liberal Party of Canada announced it was bringing back the long-form census, originally abolished in 2010 by the Conservatives.

In May of this year, census takers will begin knocking on doors and failure to comply.

Section 31 of the Statistics Act says anyone who is found guilty of refusing to, neglecting to, or falsifying information on the census is liable to “…  a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both.”

That comes with a criminal record too.

“Our plan for open and fair government starts with the reinstatement of the mandatory long-form census,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

With the reinstatement of the long-form census came the reinstatement of the law that says filling out the form is mandatory.

“It’s mandatory because we want reliable, good quality data,” said Bains.

Wilf Falk, Manitoba’s chief statistician, described the data derived from the long-form census as if he were looking at a photograph.

“It’s sort of like looking at a picture. You want a high-resolution picture, so you can see everything, as opposed to some cloudy picture where you really can’t make out what’s really going on.”

That high-resolution picture that Falk wants so badly though is taken through the windows of Canadian homes. And not all Canadians want to share their details in such “high resolution.”

People should have the right to protect their personal information. People should not be forced to provide any information that they don’t want to give.

The Canadian government doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to maintaining the security of information of private individuals.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), in 2013, selected the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an audit under Section 37 of the Privacy Act.

The OPC stated the reason for the audit was due to “… numerous reports of privacy breaches involving employees inappropriately accessing taxpayer information.”

Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, of the OPC, said in her report to Parliament, “Canadians deserve to have their personal information protected, particularly when they provide it to the government under legal compulsion.”

The OPC stated their office had received 2,273 complaints regarding government privacy breaches from 2012 to 2013. That figure is up 43 per cent from the previous year.

In January 2013, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley, announced a thumb drive with the student loan details of over 580,000 Canadians had been lost.

In November 2014, the CBC reported the CRA again had breached the privacy rights of Canadians.

This time, it released 18 detailed pages of charitable donation information of some of Canada’s wealthiest individuals.

In September 2015, the government of British Columbia announced it had lost a hard drive that, “contains information on a total of 3,166,388 individuals in the years between 1991-2009.”

The OPC stated on its website, “Governments need information about their citizens in order to deliver programs and set public policies in vital areas such as health, transportation, public safety and national security.”

“Without privacy,” it continued, “other fundamental rights—to speak, to assemble and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure—lack true meaning.”

The government has failed many times in protecting the personal information of Canadians.

But, “the law is the law,” said Bains.

The government has the authority to arrest individuals if they don’t provide them with the high-resolution snapshot of their life.

This government is ready to beat down the doors of Canadians to look inside their lives and throw them into jail.

Let those who want to bare all to the government and hope they don’t lose the laptop their information is on.

To force me to give up what I choose to keep private is dictatorial.

To threaten me with incarceration for it is draconian.

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