Sus­pended vice-ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man’s case put over un­til July 10

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - LEE BERTHIAUME

OT­TAWA — A hand­ful of sup­port­ers turned up at the Ot­tawa court­house Wed­nes­day to praise Vice-Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man and de­cry the crim­i­nal charge against him, though the sus­pended mil­i­tary of­fi­cer did not per­son­ally ap­pear in court.

Nor­man was sus­pended as the mil­i­tary’s sec­ond-in-com­mand in Jan­uary 2017 and charged this past March with breach of trust for al­legedly leak­ing gov­ern­ment se­crets to a Que­bec ship­yard. He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Wed­nes­day’s pro­ceed­ing was a rou­tine re­view and fol­lowed a closed-door con­fer­ence Tues­day be­tween the Crown and Nor­man’s de­fence lawyer — a con­fer­ence has been sched­uled to re­sume June 27.

The two sides will re­port back to the court July 10.

Nor­man was not present in the court­room and was in­stead rep­re­sented by Ot­tawa lawyer Owen Rees.

The vice-ad­mi­ral’s ab­sence didn’t stop a hand­ful of peo­ple from show­ing up at the court­house to show their sup­port for the sus­pended of­fi­cer, in­clud­ing re­tired naval cap­tain Ian Pater­son, who served with Nor­man in the Forces.

“He’s one of the few se­nior of­fi­cers over the last decade that has ac­tu­ally stood up and said, ‘This is what we should do,’ and as a re­sult, he’s just be­ing ground down,” Pater­son said out­side the court­house.

Nor­man has en­joyed sig­nif­i­cant back­ing from var­i­ous peo­ple across the coun­try, in­clud­ing more than 1,000 peo­ple who have do­nated a com­bined $125,000 to a crowd­sourced fund to help cover his le­gal costs. Those con­trib­u­tors in­clude for­mer mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and even some politi­cians such as Alberta op­po­si­tion leader Ja­son Ken­ney.

Many of Nor­man’s sup­port­ers have al­leged that he is sim­ply a ca­su­alty of a much larger war that is be­ing qui­etly waged be­tween the var­i­ous ship­yards in­volved in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s multi­bil­lion-dol­lar ship­build­ing plan. Oth­ers have ac­cused the Trudeau gov­ern­ment of try­ing to make an ex­am­ple of him.

The case against Nor­man re­volves around the newly elected Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion in Novem­ber 2015 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 un­til per­ma­nent re­place­ments could be built in Van­cou­ver.

While the plan to re­visit the con­tract was sup­posed to re­main se­cret, court doc­u­ments re­leased last year show the RCMP sus­pected Nor­man of be­ing up­set with the de­ci­sion and wor­ried the gov­ern­ment would can­cel the project.

Nor­man was com­man­der of the navy at the time and, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, al­legedly worked with Davie to try to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment to stick with the project.

None of the al­le­ga­tions against Nor­man have been tested in court, and he has vowed to fight the charges in court.

Mark Nor­man

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