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Politics Norman’s defence team urges access to communications from Trudeau, top staff

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman follows his lawyer Marie Henein as they leave the courthouse in Ottawa, Ont., on April 10, 2018.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s legal team urged government officials to speed up access to notes, e-mails and texts that relate to his criminal case from high-level government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Defence lawyer Marie Henein said in an Ottawa court on Friday that the “urgent” documents the defence has requested are records held by Mr. Trudeau, his chief of staff, Katie Telford, and former principal secretary Gerald Butts, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s chief of staff, Zita Astravas, and Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.

The defence team has been trying for months to obtain thousands of government documents and internal communications related to the case, some of which they believe will exonerate their client. But they say they have met constant challenges as the government drags its heels.

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Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged last year with breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets in an attempt to influence cabinet’s decision on a $700-million shipbuilding contract with Quebec’s Davie Shipyard. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“We’ve been at this for so long. We don’t have a single document, so we’ve prioritized, we’ve done lists, we’ve prioritized even more, we’re now prioritizing based on the motion. Can my friend indicate when those documents will be presented to you to review?” Ms. Henein said, indicating toward the judge, at a pretrial hearing on Friday.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey interjected, “Mr. Wernick’s been kinda busy this week,” referring to his appearance before the House of Commons justice committee amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy engulfing the federal Liberal government.

Department of Justice lawyer Robert MacKinnon said his office is “working as fast as we can” to retrieve the documents and provide them to court, but wouldn’t say when that would be.

He acknowledged receiving the request from Ms. Henein to prioritize those documents earlier this month and said, “everybody is working at full speed.”

Ms. Henein said the request has been “outstanding for some time” and she wants to ensure those names are moved to the top of the list, saying the material may be relevant to the abuse-of-process motion from the defence that’s scheduled for the end of March.

“I’m happy to make those five a priority,” Mr. MacKinnon said.

The court also heard that Crown prosecutors have started to collect notes from witnesses who were interviewed by the RCMP during its investigation in 2016, but that they’re not yet finished.

Justice Perkins-McVey said she requested the documents more than a month ago and the March motions are “fast approaching.”

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