December 24, 2018
By Scott Taylor
Last Tuesday, a witness at the pre-trial hearing of Vice Admiral Mark Norman dropped a bombshell when he told the court that senior DND officials had deliberately omitted Norman’s name from key documents in order to avoid a paper trail. In other words, an alleged cover-up in this case was pre-meditated and intentional.
This testimony certainly supports the assertion of Norman’s legal team that the government is deliberately stonewalling them from accessing documents which would be vital to the Vice Admiral’s defence.
The identity of the witness is protected by a court ordered publication ban, as the still-serving servicemember fears possible retribution career-wise from his Chain-of-Command.
On the plus side of this equation is the fact that this individual had the moral integrity to bring the truth forward, regardless of the damage this might do to his superiors and the institution.
The flip side of this is the depressing realization that there are still those in senior offices within the Defence Department that mistakenly think they can deliberately circumvent the access to information law, and then rely upon the loyalty of their subordinates to keep their subterfuge a secret.
This high-profile saga began almost two years ago when it was announced in January 2017 that VAdm Norman, then Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, was suspended with pay and under investigation.
At that time, DND offered no details as to why the number two officer in the Canadian Forces was so suddenly dismissed.
Without access to the facts, the media turned to speculation and within hours Norman was being branded guilty of everything from sexual misconduct to international espionage.
To dampen the feeding frenzy on Norman’s reputation, information was eventually provided that Norman’s alleged wrongdoing involved an information leak regarding a shipbuilding contract.
In March 2018, a full fifteen months after he was publicly fired, one charge of breach of trust was laid against Norman. It is alleged by the Crown prosecutors that Norman leaked classified government information regarding a $700-million contract to lease a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. Norman has steadfastly denied the allegations.
To help prove their case, Norman’s defence team, headed by top notch lawyer Marie Henein, requested access to all of the pertinent emails, reports, memos, etc, which would have been generated at those top level DND offices in the two week window bracketing the admiral’s suspension.
Anyone familiar with DND bureaucracy will realize that something as touchy as public dismissal of a top officer would generate a flurry of correspondence between all of these very senior personnel who had to undertake this very sensitive task. Thus it came as a bit of a shock to the officer assigned to collect all of these documents when his supervisor smiled and stated there was none.
In his testimony at the pre-trial hearing, the witness recounted his Commanding Officer’s reaction to the request which was filed under the access to information law, “He gives me a smile and says… Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back nil return.”
Stunned not only by this blunt admission of premeditated obstruction by his Commanding Officer, and the fact that, “he seemed proud to provide that response,” the witness told the court that he felt compelled to do the right thing and come forward to testify in support of Norman.
Essentially this amounts to the witness’s unnamed Commanding officer telling a detective on a criminal case not to bother dusting for fingerprints because the culprits were smart enough to wear gloves when they committed the crime.
If true, and it must be kept in mind that the Commanding officer in question has yet to have his version heard in court – this would reveal a very dangerous culture of cover-up existing within the upper echelons of the Defence Department.
While the five-day pre-trial hearings were to have been wrapped up last Tuesday, there remain a number of unresolved issues concerning the defence team’s claim of obstruction on the part of the prosecution. Three days of additional pretrial hearings have been added and will be held in January. The actual trial will not begin until next June.
In the meantime, the shipbuilding contract that sparked all of this intrigue and controversy has been completed, on time and on budget. From all accounts, the MV Asterix, converted at the Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec, and now leased to the RCN, is already providing our Navy with yeoman service.
That being the case, the leak allegedly made by Norman to the media is credited with thwarting an alleged 2015 attempt by Irving shipyard of Halifax, NS, to have the newly elected Liberal government scrap the contract which Harper’s Conservative’s had signed with Davie Shipbuilding.
If leaking info about Irving Shipyard allegedly trying to scuttle a project serves to keep that project on the rails, and in turn the MV Asterix project is an unqualified success, in the big scheme of things what actual harm was done?
Irving Shipbuilding wants a say in deciding which documents the federal government discloses in the criminal case against the country's former second-highest military commander. (???)
Lawyers for Vice-Admiral Mark Norman told court today that lawyers for the powerful company are seeking standing in an upcoming hearing that will decide which confidential and secret cabinet records are turned over to the defence.
The shipyard has what's known as a third-party interest because some of the documents being sought by the defence team relate to a proposal it submitted to the federal government.
The Crown, the defence and a lawyer representing seven federal departments were before a judge Friday to update him on the battle over the release of cabinet documents relevant to the case — which has touched off a political fracas on Parliament Hill.
Norman was charged with one count of breach trust after being accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to a $668 million plan to lease a supply ship for the navy from the Davie shipyard in Levis, Que.
He denies the charge. In a court filing, his lawyers allege political interference in the file and claim that Treasury Board President Scott Brison tried to scuttle the leasing plan at the behest of the Irvings. Both Brison and the company have denied the allegation.
Prior to a critical cabinet meeting — the one that Norman is accused of compromising — the Irvings sent a letter to four federal cabinet ministers asking them to give the company's own supply ship proposal a closer look before signing off on the Davie deal. A spokesman for Irving Shipbuilding declined comment on the court case Friday.
The disclosure of documents has become a political flashpoint, with the Conservative opposition pressing the Liberal government every day in question period on the government's refusal to release memos, emails and briefing notes.
Robert MacKinnon, the lawyer representing the federal government, told the court today that the defence request could produce as much as 135,000 pages and officials are searching for the relevant records. So far, none of the documents have been turned over to the defence. A lawyer for Norman said it's imperative that the defence team sees them before a full hearing in December, when the relevancy of the records to the case will be debated. (the rest of the article is at the LINK above)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1cR47KIR-U (you might have to copy&paste this URL)
There used to be, back in the dress-for-success ’80s, a one-liner about women who put career over family.“Oops,” went the line, sometimes seen on a T-shirt. “I forgot to have kids.”
I thought of it Thursday when I read of Scott Brison’s sudden resignation, and, it appears, his happy realization that doh!, he did remember to have kids and now that the girls, twins, are four, it is time to more fully devote himself to them.
Blah...blah...blah...(& he's hired on as the Vice-Chairman at BMO)
But there’s also this: Brison is one of the key figures at the heart of the prosecution against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the second-in-command of the military who is accused of leaking cabinet secrets. His name appears on the Crown’s list of witnesses when the case goes to trial in August, two months before the federal election, though it is not from government lawyers he can expect the rough ride.
Brison was vice-chair of the ad hoc committee meeting, at which, shortly after the Trudeau Liberals took office in 2015, he allegedly was “the driving force” behind the Liberals’ decision to delay awarding a contract for a supply ship to Quebec’s Davie Shipbuilding. It was he who walked into the meeting with a letter of complaint about that contract from rival Irving Shipbuilding Inc. co-CEO James Irving, begging for the Davie contract to be “competitively evaluated.” The letter had been sent to new Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote and new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and copied to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Brison.
Only Brison brought it to the meeting, and he admitted to the RCMP he raised it there.
And as described in the factum filed by Norman’s defence lawyers in their third-party records motion that resumes in Ottawa later this month, it was Brison’s statements to the RCMP — that the leaks about the contract delay, allegedly by Norman, were so grave they hindered his and the government’s ability to do their due diligence on the Davie contact — that acted as the foundation for the Norman prosecution.
Thus, the defence says, did Brison ground both the prosecution theory that Norman’s alleged conduct was “a serious and marked departure” and that he “was not acting in the public good” — by supposedly precluding Brison and the government from having a proper look at the Davie contract — and ground the criminal charge against him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc_8Kejp5Gc (Again, you might have to Copy&Paste this ULR)
That's the basics of the story. The Privy Council is reporting back to the PMO (sound familiar a la SNC Lavalin & Micheal Warnick?), and the PMO deciding (with Irving Shipbuilding's input) what documents Admiral Mark Norman's Defence Team can and can't be made aware of. Political interference in a criminal trial? Say it isn't so....