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Politics Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s pretrial judge questions independence of public prosecution service

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman makes his way to the courthouse in Ottawa, on Jan. 30, 2019.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s defence lawyer alleged in an Ottawa court that Crown prosecutors have been discussing trial strategy with the Privy Council Office, calling the Crown’s actions more concerning than political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The allegation of Privy Council Office intervention prompted the Ontario Court of Justice judge presiding over the Norman case on Monday to question the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. “So much for the independence of the PPSC,” Justice Heather Perkins-McVey interjected.

Partly redacted notes and an e-mail exchange between defence lawyer Christine Mainville and one of the lead prosecutors, Barbara Mercier, were filed in court. Ms. Mercier wrote in an e-mail that the notes from meetings with officials at the Privy Council are redacted because they deal with “trial strategy.”

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Ms. Mainville said the Crown’s position is “more concerning” than the allegations relating to SNC-Lavalin because the Crown dealt directly with the Privy Council Office.

The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday that former attorney-general and Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had resisted pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to issue a directive to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to stay court proceedings against the engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. in favour of a negotiated settlement without trial.

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

David Lametti

Justice Minister

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Explainer: The story so far on SNC-Lavalin, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau’s PMO

The pretrial hearing of Vice-Adm. Norman’s breach of trust charge resumed on Monday with Ms. Mainville seeking to obtain unredacted notes from meetings between Crown prosecutors and officials at the Privy Council Office.

“We maintain that discussions about how to run the trial are protected by litigation privilege,” Ms. Mercier wrote in the e-mail sent on Friday.

In the pretrial hearing on Monday, Ms. Mainville said, “The prosecution should not be discussing trial strategy with the Prime Minister’s Office’s right-hand person,” referring to the Privy Council Office, which is the department that assists the Prime Minister’s Office and which also launched the investigation that led to Vice-Adm. Norman being charged.

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.

“By all appearances, this is a more direct influencing of the prosecution. The attorney-general is entirely bypassed. The Prime Minister’s Office, via its right arm the PCO, is dealing directly with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. And the prosecution service is allowing this to happen," Ms. Mainville said.

The Crown is expected to respond in court on Friday and has been ordered to provide an unredacted and sealed version of the notes to the judge.

The judge’s remark questioning the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada was not the first time during the Norman trial that she has interjected with a comment. Last month, when another defence lawyer, Marie Henein, compared the government machinery to a spider’s web, Justice Perkins-McVey added, “or the layers of an onion.”

Outside the courthouse on Monday, Ms. Mainville told reporters that it’s “extremely important for the prosecuting Crown to be entirely independent of political interference."

“We would just say that it’s a heightened concern in our case given that the government is essentially the complainant in this case.”

Ms. Mainville said the way this case is different from the SNC-Lavalin case is that SNC sought help from political institutions; Vice-Adm. Norman did not.

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“Vice-Admiral Norman has never sought any assistance, any help or influence, and unlike the SNC matter, there is a very real person standing trial here and we should not overlook that because it’s especially egregious if indeed there’s been political influence in this matter and in this prosecution.”

Ms. Mainville also disputed the Crown’s claim that the documents she’s seeking are privileged, saying privilege is intended to protect the “adversarial process.”

“Frankly, the Privy Council Office or the Prime Minister’s Office should not be an adversary to Vice-Admiral Norman in this case and certainly not in conjunction with the prosecution service.”

Ms. Mainville called it a “very unique prosecution,” adding that the new facts are “concerning and troubling.”

Vice-Adm. Norman told reporters that he is confident in his team and in the court to make the right decision.

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