Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s defence team took aim at the Department of Justice in an Ottawa court Monday, accusing the department of tweeting inaccurate information about the court’s proceedings.
Defence lawyer Marie Henein said at a pretrial hearing that the Department of Justice has taken to tweeting “what’s going on in court and issuing statements.”
The defence team’s position is that those public statements are “inaccurate,” said Ms. Henein, adding that after some back-and-forth between her office and the department, the tweets had been deleted and modifications had been made to fact sheets the department included in the tweets.
“It is not our practice, in an application before court, to be issuing timelines as to the application and posting it and commenting on why the pace of this litigation is going at the rate it is,” Ms. Henein said. “So we’ve made our position known in writing to the Department of Justice as to the propriety of that sort of behaviour.”
Ms. Henein said she wanted to put it on the record and that while she won’t say more now, the defence takes issue with the statements posted, and questioned why they would be posted in the first place.
“ … The materials are available and members of the press have been here and are following it quite closely and certainly are aware of the timelines.”
Earlier this month, Ms. Henein warned that she would seek subpoenas for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick to testify in court if they fail to produce documents the defence team requested in October. (Mr. Wernick announced Monday that he is retiring from the public service.) She said she was concerned about the “lack of responsiveness” to the court order and to subpoenas that request thousands of documents and records the defence team says it needs to defend Vice-Adm. Norman, who is charged with breach of trust.
At that time, Ms. Henein also said that the defence’s Third-Party Records application, which was made in October, included the request for documents of the former attorney-general, Jody Wilson-Raybould.
In a series of tweets that evening in what appeared to be an attempt to rebuff Ms. Henein’s comments, the Department of Justice claimed the request for Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s communications was new.
“We wanted to clarify that the defence’s request for communications between the Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council Office and the former Minister of Justice mentioned in court today is a new request not included in their October 2018 Third-Party Records application," tweeted Justice Canada.
The Department of Justice tweeted a link to a fact sheet that included information about the Third-Party Records process, and tweeted, “As the fact sheet points out, the Government is providing documents to the judge for her review at the pace directed by her, and will continue to do so.”
“It is the court who will provide relevant documents to defence counsel. On March 6, 2019, the Government provided a further 317 documents to the court for review, bringing the total submitted to 996.”
The tweets have since been deleted and the fact sheet amended. When asked why the tweets were deleted, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said the tweets were sent to two journalists as “media relations outreach,” and that they later removed the tweets and followed up with journalists by e-mail.
Justice Heather Perkins-McVey said she did not want to comment on the tweets, but thanked Ms. Henein for putting it on the record.
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.
The court also heard that an abuse of process motion the defence had scheduled for next week has been postponed because Ms. Henein still does not have the documents she has requested that she needs for her argument. Some of those documents have been released by the judge to the defence to review.
Department of Justice lawyer Robert MacKinnon told the court that the Department of Justice is expected to complete its collection of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s documents within two weeks.