Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman met this week to discuss the return of the senior naval officer as second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Although Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said Vice-Adm. Norman would not be getting his old job back as vice-chief of the defence staff, a source said the discussions between General Vance and Vice-Adm. Norman focused on when he could return to the No. 2 post.
The source, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about what transpired between the two senior military officers, said the issue is about timing and ensuring his reinstatement is done responsibly.
A source said Gen. Vance made the decision to bring Vice-Adm. Norman back on his own and that an immediate announcement is unlikely because a role has to be found for Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, who was named Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff in July, 2018.
The meeting took place on Monday, and one source described it as a warm conversation between two old friends.
Dan Le Bouthillier, the head of media relations at the Department of National Defence, confirmed that “the Chief of Defence Staff and Vice-Adm. Norman met earlier this week and had a cordial discussion,” adding, “As discussions are ongoing, further information will be made available in due course.”
Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged last year with a single count of breach of trust. The Crown prosecutor said new information provided by his defence team prompted the decision in early May to stay the charge.
Hours after the news made its way to Parliament Hill, Mr. Sajjan rejected the idea of Vice-Adm. Norman returning to his old position.
“First of all we have a Vice-Chief of Defence Staff now because, the Canadian Armed Forces, we have operations going on continuously, training, and we need to function well,” Mr. Sajjan said in response to questions from reporters.
“We currently have a Vice-Chief of Defence Staff, and he will remain in place. I understand that Gen. Vance as his immediate superior will be meeting with him and discussing the next steps. Once those discussions have taken place, I’ll have further advice given to me.”
Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence lawyer Marie Henein criticized Ottawa for preventing her team from accessing thousands of government documents needed to defend her client.
“No person in this country should ever walk into a courtroom and feel like they are fighting their elected government or any sort of political factors at all," she said.
In the weeks that followed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the court process, saying the proceedings unfolded independent of government.
The fallout from the case also saw the Prime Minister leave the House of Commons moments before it unanimously passed a motion apologizing to Vice-Adm. Norman and his family for what he has been through. Mr. Sajjan was absent during the motion because he was not on Parliament Hill “due to a previously scheduled engagement,” according to his office.
Opposition MPs tried to gain some insight into the affair by proposing a committee study of the prosecution and investigation, only to have their requests swiftly rejected by the Liberals.
Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais will try to make a similar attempt on Monday. He told The Globe and Mail this week that he plans to ask his colleagues on the Senate national security and defence committee to consider inviting Vice-Adm. Norman and other witnesses to testify.
Last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called for a public inquiry into how and why the RCMP launched an investigation into the cabinet leak that led to the criminal charge. Mr. Scheer’s call came after The Globe reported that the Prime Minister was frustrated and angry that a cabinet decision to delay a navy supply ship contract had been leaked to a CBC reporter in late 2015. Sources said that triggered the Privy Council Office to call in the Mounties.