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Politics Vice-Admiral Norman’s lawyer seeks access to redacted 60-page memo Wernick sent to Trudeau

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s lawyer says that departing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick has provided to the defence a “completely redacted” 60-page memo he wrote to the Prime Minister last fall related to a breach-of-trust charge against the senior naval officer.

Marie Henein told an Ottawa court in a pretrial hearing on Thursday that the government claimed solicitor-client privilege over the memo of Oct. 24, 2018. Vice-Adm. Norman’s legal team disputes that contention.

After hearing from Ms. Henein of the government’s claim of solicitor-client privilege for the memo from Mr. Wernick to the Prime Minister, Justice Heather Perkins-McVey said, “Michael Wernick is not a lawyer, I don’t believe.”

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In his justice committee testimony over SNC, Mr. Wernick was asked about his experience with the nature of solicitor-client privilege and he said, “I am not a lawyer, but I use a lot of them.”

It is not clear whether lawyers worked with Mr. Wernick in drafting the memo to Mr. Trudeau.

Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged last year over 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.

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In court on Thursday, Ms. Henein also said there are two additional documents that will be part of the defence team’s application to challenge the government’s claim of solicitor-client privilege in April.

The documents are memos from Paul Shuttle, the Privy Council Office’s lawyer, to Mr. Wernick. One is a 64-page memo from Oct. 19, 2018, and the other is a 13-page memo dated Dec. 22, 2017.

Earlier this month, Vice-Adm. Norman’s lawyers said they will seek subpoenas for Mr. Wernick, who recently announced his retirement, and the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts to testify in court if they fail to produce documents the defence has requested.

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Ms. Henein noted in court that this was the first document Mr. Wernick has produced relating to her client’s case.

The defence team has been trying for months to obtain thousands of government documents and internal communications related to the charges against Vice-Adm. Norman, some of which, the defence says, will exonerate their client.

Ms. Henein said the first issue regarding the April application is whether there is a viable claim of privilege and secondly, if there is a viable claim, whether an exception should apply.

“Just on that note, I want to indicate on the record, as you know we have been pursuing these documents and e-mails and all sorts of correspondence,” Ms. Henein said.

“Mr. Wernick has not produced a single note, we’re advised there’s no note, there’s no e-mail, there’s no nothing and then we get a 60-page memo that’s redacted.”

Ms. Henein said the redacted memo has prompted the defence to ask Department of Justice lawyer Robert MacKinnon to obtain a list of meetings from top Privy Council Office bureaucrats, and the defence wants to know who attended those meetings.

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Last month, the defence team alleged in court that Crown prosecutors have been discussing trial strategy with the Privy Council Office, which the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) denied.

“The PPSC has not sought or received instructions in respect of the prosecution of Vice-Adm. Norman from the Privy Council Office or any other government department or body,” it said in a statement.

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