THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — Following a two-year investigation and months of political intrigue, the RCMP have charged Vice-Admiral Mark Norman with breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets.
The Mounties announced the charge on Friday, more than a year after Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command without public explanation.
Court documents later showed that he was being investigated on suspicion he leaked cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipyard in November 2015 over fears the Trudeau government would cancel a key shipbuilding project.
Norman has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Marie Henein, released a strongly worded statement Friday denouncing the RCMP’s decision to charge her client and promising to fight the allegation in court.
“Vice-Admiral Norman has devoted his entire career to serving Canada and our military,” Henein wrote.
“This is a very sad day for an extraordinary Canadian who we should be celebrating rather than prosecuting. Our public resources should be put to better use.”
Norman is scheduled to appear in court April 10.
The RCMP first launched its investigation in December 2015 in response to an allegation that classified information about a naval supply ship contract had been leaked.
The previous month, the newly elected Liberal government had decided to reconsider a $700-million contract the Harper Conservatives had awarded to Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding.
The contract was to convert a civilian vessel, the MV Asterix, into a temporary resupply ship that would be leased for five years, with another five-year option, until permanent replacements could be built in Vancouver.
According to court documents released last year, the RCMP believed Norman — commander of the navy at the time — was upset with the Liberal decision and feared the government would cancel the project.
The navy had recently retired its last two resupply ships, which are considered essential for supporting overseas deployments.
Norman allegedly worked with Davie to try to pressure the government to stick with the project, according to the documents. None of the allegations against Norman have been tested in court.
The Liberals ultimately decided to proceed with the project the MV Asterix was delivered to the navy this week.
Critics had recently started questioning the length of the investigation, with some calling for Norman’s reinstatement as vice-chief of the defence staff.
Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance announced last week that Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk will take over from Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent as acting vice-chief of defence when Parent retires later this year.
The official Opposition Conservatives also accused the Liberals of political interference after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau predicted in April 2017 that the case would end up in court, even though Norman hadn’t been charged.
Trudeau sparked another uproar last month when he suggested the case would “inevitably” lead to “court processes,” though his office later said he was referring to police and prosecutors deciding whether to lay charges.
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