June 17, 2024
With Mark Norman, the Liberals again demonstrate their disrespect for justice
What happens next is anyone's guess, but it's hard to imagine it being good news for the federal Liberal government.
What happens next is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine it being good news for the federal Liberal government.

The Mark Norman fiasco has ended, at least for now. The Navy vice-admiral and former deputy chief of the Defence Staff has won his legal battle. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine it being good news for the federal Liberal government.

Admiral Norman was the former head of the Royal Canadian Navy and serving second-highest officer in the Canadian Armed Forces when he was relieved of duty in 2017. The RCMP was called in by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to investigate the alleged leaking of cabinet secrets to Chantier Davie Canada Inc. (Davie), a Quebec-based ship building firm. In 2015, the firm had been contracted to urgently convert a civilian vessel into a naval supply ship after Canada’s two elderly supply vessels were retired without replacements (replacements, in fact, had been planned for a full decade, but construction hadn’t even started by the time the last available ship was decommissioned after being damaged by a fire). The Harper Tories gave Davie a sole-sourced contract to do the conversion work, but when the Liberals won the election later that year, they seemed less enthused about the plan.

There’s no firm explanation as to why. It’s been theorized that former Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison was advocating for a shipbuilder in Atlantic Canada, owned by New Brunswick’s Irving family, with whom he is personally friendly, to get the work and that the prospect of the upcoming Norman trial influenced his recent decision to quit politics. Brison, for his part, denies this. But in any case, Davie began to intensively lobby the government to proceed with the project and when the public learned through leaks to the media that Trudeau might pull the contract from Davie, the government was embarrassed into proceeding with the original plan. But the PMO, no doubt unhappy with being undermined, also began aggressively investigating leaks of cabinet confidences to Davie, and eventually settled on Norman as the suspect. He was charged with breach of trust in 2018, a year after being relieved of duty (but not, critically, discharged from the Navy).

That was then. On Wednesday, the Crown stayed the single charge Norman faced, announcing that it had received new evidence that cleared the admiral of suspicion of criminal acts. Norman walked out of the courthouse a free man, and will reportedly soon return to active duty in the military (his exact job is yet to be determined, as he had already been replaced as deputy chief by another officer). He has been subjected to an appalling and costly ordeal, and when it’s all said and done, no one can quite explain why. What has happened here? What was the purpose of all of this?

The Liberals, from the prime minister on down, can’t answer that, but they’re certainly happy to tell you what didn’t happen. The prime minister led the messaging this week, telling reporters just minutes after Norman left the courthouse that there had been no interference from his office. None, zip, nada — and a series of his cabinet ministers took up that refrain in the House later that day. Norman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, agreed that the prosecutor had independently chosen to drop the case, and for the right reasons, but also accused the PMO and the Privy Council Office (PCO) — the country’s federal bureaucracy, until recently led by Michael Warnick, who just stepped down after being caught in a not dissimilar scandal around SNC-Lavalin — of trying to sabotage Norman’s defence by withholding access to critical documents.

“You should be very concerned when anyone tries to erode the resilience of the justice system or demonstrates a failure to understand why it is so fundamental to the democratic values we hold so dear,” Henein said. “… You don’t put your finger and try to weigh in on the scales of justice. That is not what should be happening.”

If you’ll forgive the naval pun, that’s not even a shot across Trudeau’s bow. Henein just put a shot through it.

Henein’s accusation of improper conduct by the PMO and PCO would have been extraordinary a year ago. Today, after compelling evidence that those offices were motivated by politics to repeatedly try interfering in the Crown’s pursuit of bribery charges against SNC-Lavalin, it’s simply more of the same. It’s yet another suggestion that the Trudeau Liberals are entirely willing to subvert the administration of justice in this country when it suits them. When a friend such as SNC-Lavalin, or perhaps the Irving family operation needs help, the Trudeau Liberals will go the extra mile, it seems, even if their own attorney general urges them to stop (as Jody Wilson-Raybould did with SNC, before being fired over it). When a perceived rival — if that’s what Norman was to them — simply needs the fairness due an officer and a gentleman, he gets nothing, save petty vindictiveness. Norman was denied access to funds that are routinely made available to members of the Armed Forces or the public service who are incurring legal bills for matters related to their service (the government announced this week that it would now cover Norman’s considerable costs). The Post had previously reported that the government was dragging its feet, even in the face of court orders, to make documents available to Norman’s defence team; some of the documents, when surrendered, were entirely redacted. Military officials used codewords when discussing the case on email, just so they would not be found in searches for documentation bearing Norman’s name, thus compelling further disclosure. Senior military officers claim to have taken no notes during meetings with the prime minister to discuss the matter. The government’s behaviour in this case clearly emits a disgraceful odour.

There’s still much we don’t know. Norman has said further revelations are pending; that there are things he has to say that Canadians need to hear. Canadians are certainly interested. But it’s hard to imagine that what he has to say will do much to repair the reputation of a prime minister, and government, with the apparent bad habit of trying to game the judicial system to crush an honourable and clearly innocent Canadian whom it found inconvenient.

See Also:

(1) Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s pending return raises thorny question for brass

(2) The added insult to Norman is that Khadr was treated better

(3) GoFundMe campaign for Vice-Admiral Mark Norman will remain active for now

(4) After Norman, we need to ask what’s happening to our country

(5) Two honourable Canadians leading by example


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