Conscientious Census Objectors: Resistance is Fertile

Genny from No CONcensus has kindly allowed us to adapt a piece she wrote into a three-part blog piece. Firstly, the ideology behind census refusal.

It seems that many thousands of people in England and Wales have refused to complete the 2011 Census. Many refused after the world’s biggest arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, operating under a UK flag of convenience, was awarded the £150 million contract to process Census data. Others objected to the Census per se, and to the element of compulsion enshrined in the 1920 Census Act.

Those protesting the involvement of Lockheed Martin point to its deadly business of making nuclear weapons, fighter jets, and cluster bombs amongst other lethal products. Campaigners have also raised concerns about Lockheed’s unhealthy obsession with global surveillance as the company holds prime position in the US Federal Contractor Misconduct database. Lockheed Martin holds contracts for the Census in both the US and Canada, where there is also resistance.

In Scotland, the Census contract was awarded to CACI, another arms company, fueling further resistance and refusal north of the border. CACI also implicated in human rights abuses and torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo detention centres. Overall, the government’s choice of contractors appears to have effectively compromised the accuracy of the 2011 Census since it has directly resulted in many of the refusals.

The individual has the right not to deal with an unethical company, in the same way as we have the right of conscientious objection to fighting in a war. Other refusers argue that compelling an individual to complete the Census compromises the fundamental human right to privacy, particularly when the security of the data supplied cannot be guaranteed.

A small percentage of the conscientious census objectors in England, Scotland and possibly Wales are now being prosecuted and brought to court- often many miles from their homes. To refuse to obey a government diktat on grounds of conscience and to risk prosecution for doing so are in themselves significant acts of resistance.

The sheer volume of refusals over the 2011 Census sends a clear message that it is not OK for the government to ignore ethical considerations and award lucrative contracts to arms companies.

Next week: the court process.

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