Group launches legal attack on Tories' census move
Signage marks the Statistics Canada offices in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 21, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA - A French-Canadian group has launched a legal attack on multiple fronts against the federal government's move to scrap the mandatory long-form census.
The group has not only asked Federal Court to void the Harper government's new policy, but also wants an injunction that would keep the new type of census from being distributed this year.
It is also asking the court to fast-track its case so that it can be heard by mid-October, before the government distributes the 2011 census.
The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada tabled its papers in Federal Court on July 26. The Canadian Press obtained copies of those documents on Wednesday.
The federation argues that Ottawa's move violates not only the Official Languages Act, but also the Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It says that without reliable data about the francophone presence in Canada, the quality of government services in French could suffer.
The group's president, Marie-France Kenny, said Wednesday the organization doesn't want to resign itself to a fait accompli.
"We don't want the government to tell us, 'It's too late, it's already printed.' We don't want the court to say, 'Look, the census has already happened,"' Kenny said.
"We're saying, 'Hurry up before there are more costs.' The goal isn't to incur costs for the government or the taxpayers."
Critics of the move note that it will cost the government more money to produce an inferior census.
Tory defenders call the mandatory form -- which carried the threat of legal punishment -- a violation of privacy.
Some also argue that, with a watered-down census, it will become harder for the federal government to design social programs.
The FCSA says the last-minute legal offensive was necessary and came after letters went unanswered to Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore.
The last letter the group sent went directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"We didn't have a choice. We had 30 days (to file a motion)," Kenny said.
"We tried everything, everything we could, short of kidnapping people, to meet them."