The committee members should know that I've been involved with access to information for most of my career. I'm basically a professional user of the Access to Information Act. It's with that in mind that I've had a lot of experience in all kinds of things, including in one case, in which I took the government to the Supreme Court of Canada. There were also other court cases in which I was involved, which gave me a sense of the need to push the government once in a while.
Since I've provided the clerk with a summary of my presentation, I'll simply say that access is an important right, but a lot of people haven't necessarily gotten around to learning the ropes of how to put a request in writing and word it properly. I've taken years to learn the details.
In my experience, access does work and it is important as a right for citizens, but there are a lot of problems. COVID certainly created the biggest problem, which is uncertainty, and I have made some requests that God knows when I will get an answer to.
I've given examples from four cases in my presentation. One is dealing with $500 million to $1 billion in unpaid taxes. I've been working on this one for several years, and I've had all kinds of hassles about this one. The American whistle-blower who brought it to my attention is available to give testimony if people want it. I spoke with him recently.
The other one is Project Anecdote. This is an RCMP investigation that took 10 years, from 1993 to 2003. They spent lots of resources, but at the very end they didn't charge anybody. Now, apparently, according to the information I had, there was corruption and money laundering, yet they found nothing. That's why I'm using access as my right as a citizen to find out why they don't want to collect maybe a billion dollars. I feel I'm entitled to an explanation as to why they chose not to do it. If there's a reason, let's see it, but so far nobody has any records. This ties into the problems with this one, because they told me initially that I might have to wait 800 years to get the answer. Then they said, oh, we'll revise it to 2098. The point is, that's still well beyond my lifetime.
There's a complaint to the commissioner about this, but I haven't heard back on it.
This specific request is particularly problematic because the stuff that goes to the archives is normally public, and the 20-year rule should have applied for the RCMP stuff up to the year 2000. That should have all been disclosable, but it's not, so what's going on? I provided the members of the committee with a letter that a third party had received saying that this information could have been provided with 30 days of work by four people. Now they tell me 30 days, 80 years, or 800 years. Which is it? I don't know.
The other thing the committee should know is that in the case of Project Anecdote, the court ordered the archivist of Canada to show up in court in Gatineau, Quebec, in 2015. The archivist defied a court order and didn't provide the information as required by law, so there's something sensitive about this particular file.
The final thing I would say is about the third case I had. I was surprised that the Canadian citizen—he had kids who were born in the States but he and his wife were born in Canada—was denied access to records to which he was entitled by virtue of a court order, which the Department of Immigration didn't want to accept. Eventually, when the commissioner intervened, the problem was resolved. The thing is, he's still having delays caused by whatever because he has four children, but he only applied for the first child. So we have to sit and watch what's happening.
As a result of this delay, he was forced to leave Canada. People should know that.
The final thing in my four points here—