The House of Commons apologized Tuesday to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and his family for what they endured over the course of his breach-of-trust case, which collapsed last week.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were absent.
When Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt rose in the House after Question Period, shortly after 3 p.m., she proposed a motion asking that the House “recognize Vice-Admiral Mark Norman for his decades of loyal service to Canada, express regret for the personal and professional hardships he endured as a result of his failed prosecution and apologize to him and his family for what they experienced during their legal conflict with government.”
MPs yelled “yay” to adopting the motion, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already left the chamber moments before. His office said he had to fly to Hamilton, where, according to his itinerary, he was scheduled to attend a 6 p.m. reception with members of the Croatian-Canadian community, to coincide with the visit of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Also missing from the House during the vote was Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who expressed regret for what happened to Vice-Adm. Norman on CTV’s Question Period Sunday but did not go as far as apologizing. Mr. Sajjan’s office said he left the House because he had “a previously scheduled engagement.”
Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged with breach of trust last year for allegedly leaking government secrets in an attempt to influence cabinet’s decision in a review of a $668-million contract with Davie shipyard for a supply vessel. He denied any wrongdoing.
The charge against the senior naval officer was suddenly stayed last week after Crown prosecutor Barbara Mercier said new documents provided by the defence gave more context to Vice-Adm. Norman’s actions.
The decision among Liberal MPs to support the motion to apologize marks a departure from the Prime Minister’s position. In Question Period Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pointedly asked Mr. Trudeau to apologize, and he declined.
“Once again, we see the NDP jumping on the Conservative bandwagon because their approach on climate change, their approach on the economy, has simply fallen flat,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The Conservatives have been calling on the Prime Minister to apologize since the charge against Vice-Adm. Norman was stayed.
In response to Mr. Singh’s question, Mr. Trudeau added, “We continue to respect the independence of the judiciary – we always will. The charges … the measures were brought forward against the vice-admiral at the decision and at the direction of the chief of defence staff, that is known by everyone. But [the NDP] are stuck, so they are slinging mud, too, like the Conservatives.”
Mr. Trudeau’s appearance during Question Period was the first time he has attended and responded to questions about the case since the charge was stayed.
The unanimous apology comes just days before Liberal MPs will decide whether to allow a review of the investigation and prosecution of Vice-Adm. Norman.
Four opposition members on the House of Commons national defence committee wrote a letter to the clerk of the committee over the weekend, automatically triggering an emergency meeting, which will take place Thursday.
Conservative MPs James Bezan, Cheryl Gallant and Richard Martel and NDP MP Randall Garrison are proposing to call a number of high-profile witnesses, including Mr. Trudeau, to testify before the committee.
The saga continued in the House Tuesday night, with opposition MPs grilling Justice Minister David Lametti over documents that defence lawyer Marie Henein said the government withheld – documents she said she needed to defend Vice-Adm. Norman.
Mr. Lametti, who was appearing before the committee of the whole to discuss Justice Department spending estimates, said he received a breakdown of how his department dealt with the third-party records application. He said he was “satisfied" that it met its obligations.