BROCKVILLE, ON: Peacemaker goes to court for refusing to participate in Lockheed-Martin census

3 April 2009
BROCKVILLE, ON: Peacemaker goes to court for refusing to participate in Lockheed-Martin census

by David Milne

“Jesus calls us to make peace. Because Lockheed-Martin is involved, if I cooperated with the census I would violate my own religious beliefs.”  Todd Stelmach gave this testimony on 5 March 2009 in a Brockville, Ontario courthouse packed with reporters and supporters, including members of Christian Peacemaker Teams.  Stelmach, who participated in CPT’s November, 2008 Aboriginal Justice Delegation to Algonquin Territory, cited passages from the Old and New Testaments to support his testimony and defend himself against the charge of not completing the census, an offence punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine of up to $500.   

Peter Morrison, the Director General for the census program, took the stand before Stelmach.  He maintained that according to the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA), which the government of Canada signed, Lockheed-Martin had the right to bid on the contract to do the support work needed to complete the Canadian census of both 2006 and 2011.  Morrison stated that as Lockheed-Martin’s bid was the best one in a fair and open process; refusing to award it to Lockheed-Martin would have violated NAFTA.   The Canadian government will pay Lockheed-Martin $49 million for the census of 2006 and $18 million over five years to update this software for the census in 2011.

Morrison outlined the importance of the census to federal and provincial governments for assessing needs in fields such as health care, education and social assistance.  Stelmach, an occupational therapist who also works with homeless people and youth, agreed.   “Health programs rely on information the census provides.  I support that.  But it’s wrong for the world’s largest arms maker, one that makes weapons that kill innocent people, to be involved.”

The Crown Attorney tried to distance the census from Lockheed-Martin by saying that the entity conducting the census was Lockheed-Martin Canada.  He also referred to the claim that Lockheed-Martin is a weapons’ manufacturer, as “hearsay” (inadmissible).  Stelmach pointed out its own website confirms it is a weapons manufacturer.  

The judge accepted the Crown Attorney’s argument that it should reject Stelmach’s defence based on the Charter of Rights' guarantee of freedom to practise one’s religion.  When the Crown Attorney asked Gary Castle, Stelmach’s pastor, if he had completed the census in 2006, he said “I did.  But I’m thinking about whether I’ll do it again.”

Citing the complexity and novelty of the case the judge reserved his decision to 6 April 2009 at 10 a.m.