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Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, stops to talk while inspecting the 50 men Guard of Honour held at Duntze Head on September 16, 2013.Corporal Michael Bastien

The RCMP have laid a charge of breach of trust against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the former second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces.

An RCMP investigation of Vice-Adm. Norman was related to the alleged leak of secret federal documents.

The RCMP's national division confirmed the charge in a news release Friday, stating investigators had to obtain documents from American sources.

"The RCMP sought evidence through a number of judicial authorizations and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Request from U.S. authorities. The investigation also involved other investigative measures such as witness interviews, as well as the forensic analysis of a significant number of documents," the RCMP said.

Vice-Adm. Norman, 54, is set to appear in court in Ottawa on April 10.

Supporters of Vice-Adm. Norman repeatedly called for the RCMP to drop their investigation, saying the officer always acted in Canada's national interest.

In a statement, defence lawyer Marie Henein said Vice-Adm. Norman was never "swayed by political or personal considerations" in his actions.

"This is a very sad day for an extraordinary Canadian who we should be celebrating rather than prosecuting. Our public resources should be put to better use. His faith in this country remains unshaken. So too is his faith in the legal system," said Ms. Henein. "We will respond to this allegation in a courtroom where evidence, objectivity and fairness matter and where politics have absolutely no place."

Vice-Adm. Norman was temporarily relieved of duty 14 months ago as vice-chief of the defence staff when his boss, General Jonathan Vance, learned that his second-in-command was under criminal investigation.

The RCMP alleged in court documents made public last year that Vice-Adm. Norman leaked cabinet secrets to an executive of a Quebec-based shipyard and advised the businessman on how to use the media to press the federal government to approve a $667-million contract for naval supply ships. The court documents included e-mails from Vice-Adm. Norman to Spencer Fraser, chief executive of Federal Fleet Services, the company in charge of refitting a cargo ship to serve as a naval supply vessel at the Chantier Davie Canada Inc. shipyard in Lévis, Que.

Vice-Adm. Norman was the commander of the navy when the previous, Conservative government awarded the contract, without competition, to Davie in 2015.

Soon after taking power in November, 2015, the new, Liberal government put the project on hold after receiving a letter of complaint from Irving Shipbuilding, which already had a multibillion-dollar contract to build a fleet of warships for the navy in Halifax. Chief executive James Irving tried to persuade the government to kill the sole-source contract with Davie, saying his firm had offered a lower-cost option.

Another shipbuilder, Vancouver-based Seaspan, also called for an open competition and said it could convert a civilian cargo ship into a military supply ship at a significantly lower cost.

Vice-Adm. Norman sought to press the new government to stick with the Davie contract, according to court documents. He argued publicly in 2016 that delays in the shipbuilding program had hurt the navy and "were completely avoidable."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called in the RCMP to investigate the leak of classified cabinet deliberations, according to one insider. The decision to launch a criminal investigation was made at the highest level of the government after an internal investigation by Security Operations at the Privy Council Office failed to discover the source of the cabinet leaks.

The e-mail correspondence with Mr. Fraser obtained by the RCMP suggests Vice-Adm. Norman was critical of the four top executives at Irving Shipbuilding. In one he referred to them as the "four horsemen of the apocalypse." When it was made public, Irving said the characterization of its executives was offensive.

Late last year, two former Royal Canadian Navy commanders urged federal authorities to either charge or exonerate Vice-Adm. Norman. Retired vice-admirals Gary Garnet and Ron Buck said Vice-Adm. Norman had been subjected to a "travesty of justice" and suggested in a letter to The Globe that the government was hell-bent on charging their friend despite a lack of evidence.

"The RCMP and prosecutors continue to investigate Admiral Norman, likely, because the Government does not like the answer – he did the right thing and broke no laws," they wrote.

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