What is going on in the Canadian Armed Forces? The chief of the defence staff, General Jonathan Vance, has "temporarily" relieved his second in command of duties without explanation. Why the removal? Why is it temporary? No one will say. It's an unusual and drastic move, and the public has been left clueless about its reasons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government supports the decision but refuses to say anything more. Sources have told The Globe and Mail that the RCMP has been investigating a leak of top-secret information for months, and that this was behind the decision to suspend Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The RCMP has refused to confirm whether or not it is investigating Vice-Adm. Norman. That's proper procedure – you only have to think of FBI Director James Comey's incredibly damaging and ultimately misleading announcement that the FBI was investigating a new batch of Hillary Clinton e-mails to be reminded of why.
But it's less clear whether or not the Armed Forces command is doing the right thing by refusing to release even the smallest detail to explain the "temporary" departure of the man who is effectively the military's chief operating officer.
Vice-Adm. Norman is responsible for security inside the Armed Forces and may have access to highly classified information. This raises a serious question: Is national security at risk?
We are living in a time of heightened tensions. The United States intelligence community is convinced that Russia meddled in the recent U.S. election. Tensions are rising in Europe, where NATO's existence is being questioned by president-elect Donald Trump.
This isn't the ideal moment for Canadians to have doubts about their military. At the very least, General Vance should tell the public whether or not national security has been compromised.
It may well turn out that Vice-Adm. Norman's ouster is indeed temporary, and was only done out of an abundance of caution. But this could also turn out to be a grave situation that poses a threat to Canada's security. At the moment, it's impossible to know for certain. Ottawa has taken a highly unusual step, but it won't say why. The public deserves to know what's going on.