Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, whose politically charged criminal case was abandoned by the Crown in May, has reached a confidential settlement with the federal government and will retire from the military.
Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command in January, 2017, and charged last year with a single count of breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets related to a naval ship contract. But in early May, the Crown prosecutor said information provided by Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence team prompted the decision to stay the charge, telling the court there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.
On Wednesday, the Department of National Defence issued a statement on behalf of the government and Vice-Adm. Norman, saying counsels for each party “have concluded discussions, held in good faith, which have resulted in a mutually acceptable agreement, the details of which will remain confidential.”
Opposition parties have called for inquiries to study allegations of political interference by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior government officials in Vice-Adm. Norman’s case, all of which were rejected by the governing Liberals in the House of Commons.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said Vice-Adm. Norman and his family have given a “tremendous service” to Canada, but took aim at the Liberal government for keeping the agreement secret before the coming fall election.
“It is quite convenient for the Trudeau government to wrap up a confidential settlement on the eve of an election using taxpayer funds to hide their own mishandling and potential corruption surrounding the Norman affair,” Mr. O’Toole said.
“It has been a shameful episode on the part of the Prime Minister and the Liberal government,” he added.
Warren Winkler, a former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, mediated sessions between the government and Vice-Adm. Norman’s legal team during the past two weeks, said Daniel Le Bouthillier, a spokesperson for the Defence Department. Mr. Le Bouthillier said no date has been set for Vice-Adm. Norman’s retirement.
The statement says Vice-Adm. Norman remains committed to the navy, the Armed Forces and their mission, “However, after consulting with his family, his chain of command, and his counsel, Vice-Adm. Norman has decided to retire from the Canadian Armed Forces.” The federal government thanked Vice-Adm. Norman for his 38 years of service.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, it seemed as though Vice-Adm. Norman would return to active duty. Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance had met with Vice-Adm. Norman to discuss his return to the Canadian Armed Forces and a source told The Globe and Mail that the discussions between the pair focused on when Vice-Adm. Norman could return to the No. 2 post.
The day the charge was withdrawn, Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence lawyer, Marie Henein, praised the Crown for its independence from political considerations in staying the prosecution. But she also criticized Ottawa for preventing the defence team from accessing thousands of government documents it said were needed to defend Vice-Adm. Norman.
“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 at the time.
It was a politically charged case that saw Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence team threaten to seek subpoenas for senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office to testify in court if they failed to produce the documents it wanted, including communications between government officials related to the case.
The end of the case last month also meant a number of key witnesses would not testify before the court in a trial that had expected to start in August. In March, Ms. Henein said she would seek subpoenas for the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick to testify in court if they failed to produce documents the defence team requested last October.
The fallout from the case also saw Mr. Trudeau leave the House of Commons moments before it unanimously passed a motion apologizing to Vice-Adm. Norman and his family for what they have been through. During Question Period before the vote, Mr. Trudeau had declined to apologize to Vice-Adm. Norman.
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. A similar proposal was made at a Senate committee, but it became bogged down in accusations and was plagued with uncertainty.
The Globe and Mail has reported Mr. Trudeau was furious that a cabinet decision to delay a navy supply ship contract had been leaked to a CBC reporter in late 2015. Sources said the Prime Minister’s anger led the Privy Council Office to call in the Mounties.