DND records probe never hap­pened

Of­fi­cials falsely claimed in­quiry into Nor­man doc­u­ments un­der­way

Ottawa Citizen - - Front Page - DAVID PUGLIESE

An On­tario po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions the Cana­dian mil­i­tary tried to hide doc­u­ments in the Mark Nor­man af­fair never hap­pened de­spite of­fi­cial fed­eral gov­ern­ment claims to the con­trary, the Ci­ti­zen has con­firmed.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was sup­posed to have been turned over by the RCMP to the On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice more than a year ago but that was only done on Sun­day — four days after the Ci­ti­zen be­gan ques­tion­ing whether an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ac­tu­ally been done.

The al­leged at­tempts to hide the doc­u­ments, re­quested from the De­fence De­part­ment and Cana­dian Forces un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion law, was re­vealed in De­cem­ber 2018 pre­trial pro­ceed­ings in the case of Vice Adm. Nor­man.

That bomb­shell fur­ther fu­elled con­cerns among Nor­man’s sup­port­ers who al­leged the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment and se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were try­ing to rail­road the vice ad­mi­ral, who was once the second in com­mand of the Cana­dian Forces. Nor­man had been charged by the RCMP with one count of breach of trust for al­legedly re­veal­ing in­for­ma­tion about Lib­eral gov­ern­ment plans to de­rail a sup­ply ship project.

But the case against Nor­man col­lapsed in May 2019, with the vice ad­mi­ral ex­on­er­ated and a large fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment paid by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to the naval of­fi­cer.

Dur­ing pre­trial pro­ceed­ings in the Nor­man case, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer tes­ti­fied that his boss, a brigadier-gen­eral, bragged that Nor­man’s name was de­lib­er­ately not used in in­ter­nal mil­i­tary and De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence files — mean­ing any search for records un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion law about Nor­man would come up empty.

The tes­ti­mony was enough to prompt Caro­line May­nard, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s in­for­ma­tion watch­dog, to be­gin an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Cana­dian Forces and DND’s han­dling of ac­cess re­quests in the Nor­man case. She re­vealed two weeks ago that the re­sults of her ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter showed ev­i­dence of the pos­si­ble com­mis­sion of an of­fence un­der the ac­cess law and she had re­ferred the is­sue to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Canada back in Fe­bru­ary 2019 for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In re­sponse to May­nard’s state­ment from two weeks ago, of­fi­cials with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as well as the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice of Canada, which pros­e­cuted Nor­man, claimed the con­cerns raised by the in­for­ma­tion watch­dog were re­ferred first to the RCMP and then from there to the On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice.

But an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Ci­ti­zen has found those claims were false. The OPP con­firmed they had never been con­tacted to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions that doc­u­ments were hid­den in the Nor­man case.

The RCMP was in­deed con­tacted by the Deputy Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions on March 19, 2019 about the con­cerns raised by May­nard. The RCMP, how­ever, de­ter­mined it was in a con­flict of in­ter­est due to its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Nor­man and it had planned to re­fer the case to the OPP.

“How­ever, due to an ad­min­is­tra­tive er­ror and changes in se­nior staff at the time, it ap­pears we never made that re­fer­ral,” RCMP spokesman Daniel Brien said in re­sponse to ques­tions from the Ci­ti­zen. “We sin­cerely re­gret this over­sight and have taken immediate steps to cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion.”

Brien said on Aug. 2 — four days after the Ci­ti­zen be­gan ques­tion­ing whether an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ac­tu­ally been done — the RCMP “made a for­mal re­quest to the OPP to con­sider an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into these al­le­ga­tions.”

He also noted at the same time the RCMP ad­vised the Office of the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner about the de­vel­op­ment. May­nard had never fol­lowed up on whether an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had started into her con­cerns the ac­cess law had been bro­ken.

The ac­cess law al­lows mem­bers of the pub­lic to pay $5 to try to ac­cess fed­eral doc­u­ments. But the process can take years and there is much crit­i­cism about how it op­er­ates.

In Nor­man’s pre­trial hear­ing, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer tes­ti­fied he was pro­cess­ing an ac­cess-to-in­for­ma­tion re­quest about the vice ad­mi­ral in 2017 that re­turned no re­sults. When he sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion, the wit­ness tes­ti­fied that his boss, a brigadier-gen­eral smiled and told him: “Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back the nil return.”

“He seemed proud to pro­vide that re­sponse,” the wit­ness, a ma­jor in the Cana­dian Forces, told the court. The wit­ness did not know Nor­man but came for­ward be­cause of his con­cerns that the ac­tions be­ing taken were not proper.

The de­tails dur­ing Nor­man’s pre­trial hear­ing about ef­forts within the Cana­dian Forces to cir­cum­vent the ac­cess law raised sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about whether the naval of­fi­cer could get a fair trial. The judge was con­cerned enough about the tes­ti­mony that a pub­li­ca­tion ban was used to keep the name of the mil­i­tary wit­ness out of the pub­lic do­main as there

Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back the nil (ac­cess-to-in­for­ma­tion re­quest).

were con­cerns he would face ret­ri­bu­tion by the Cana­dian Forces’ lead­er­ship for re­veal­ing meth­ods used to cir­cum­vent the ac­cess law.

Nor­man’s pre­trial also heard al­le­ga­tions of close co-op­er­a­tion be­tween pros­e­cu­tors and the gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion which sup­ports the Prime Min­is­ter’s Office. The Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice of Canada de­nied that was the case.

The pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice and the RCMP were also ac­cused of bungling the Nor­man case when it was re­vealed that basic in­for­ma­tion that would even­tu­ally ex­on­er­ate the vice ad­mi­ral wasn’t even ex­am­ined.

Asked why the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice of Canada pro­vided mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion to the Ci­ti­zen that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing han­dled by the OPP, and whether the Prime Min­is­ter’s Office or Privy Coun­cil Office was in­volved in that, spokesper­son Nathalie Houle re­sponded: “As a non-par­ti­san, in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion, the PPSC does not con­sult with PCO or PMO on our media re­sponses. Approval for PPSC media re­sponses al­ways come from within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The PPSC has no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion to pro­vide.” dpugliese@postmedia.com

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A breach of trust case in­volv­ing for­mer Vice-Adm. Mark Nor­man even­tu­ally col­lapsed, with the gov­ern­ment pay­ing a set­tle­ment to the of­fi­cer.

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