VICE-ADMIRAL MARK NORMAN KNEW HE WAS BREAKING SECRECY RULES, BUT DID IT TO GET THE DEAL HE WANTED, PROSECUTORS SAY.
The court that will determine whether Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is guilty of breach of trust shouldn’t consider whether other federal employees were leaking secrets, or whether public servants were undercutting an effort to obtain a new supply ship for the Canadian navy, federal prosecutors argue in documents filed this week. Instead, it should consider only whether Norman’s alleged leak of cabinet confidences was done with criminal intent.
“Mark Norman does not face a criminal charge for having done what he thought was best for Canada’s Navy,” the prosecutors argue. “He is charged for breaking the rules that he swore to uphold; rules that, to him, had become inconvenient; rules that were frustrating what he thought was important and wanted.”
It suggests prosecutors have expanded their focus from the original police allegations about a leak from a cabinet committee meeting to encompass an argument that Norman should not have been communicating at all with journalists or with Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding, which had been contracted to provide the supply ship.
Norman, the former second-in-command of the Canadian Forces, was charged with one count of breach of trust in March 2018 after a long RCMP investigation into the leak of information from a November 2015 cabinet committee meeting at which ministers in the newly elected Liberal government decided to pause the sole-sourced deal with Davie, struck by the previous Conservative government that summer. The decision to reconsider the Davie project came after four ministers received a letter from the powerful Irving family, who wanted their own supply-ship proposal reconsidered. (Irving Shipbuilding has denied any attempt at political interference.)
The RCMP alleged Norman, who has pleaded not guilty to the breach of trust charge, championed Davie’s proposal and provided company officials with information from the cabinet meeting and the discussions about delaying the deal with the company.
Norman’s legal team has argued that, far from interfering in a shipbuilding contract for personal gain or preference, as the Crown has alleged, Norman was working to ensure that the orders of elected officials were being followed as a group of public servants tried to undercut the Conservative government’s orders to quickly acquire a supply ship for a navy badly in need of one. Norman’s lawyers have also argued there is no evidence Norman ever leaked cabinet documents, alleging the leak in question actually came from a government employee named Matthew Matchett.
“The Navy may very well need a ship, and the (Davie vessel) may very well be the best, most cost-effective option,” federal prosecutors argue in their filing. “But that is not Mr. Norman’s decision to make, nor is he able to force that decisions or influence it by secretly releasing information to persons outside the government.”
Norman is bound by a Canadian Forces code of values and ethics which includes the duty of “integrity and loyalty,” the prosecutors said.
In addition, all communications with the media concerning or affecting the Canadian Forces are prohibited and may only be made with the express permission of the minister or a person designated by the minister, according to the Crown.
If Norman believed other public servants were undermining the Conservative government’s order he should have complained up the chain of command, or asked for protection under the whistleblower law, instead of advocating for the Davie proposal behind the scenes, the court filing argued. “Mr. Norman knew he was breaking many very well-defined rules.”
In its filing, the Crown provides more detail on its allegation that Norman systematically leaked secret cabinet information, particularly to Davie representative Spencer Fraser. The Crown alleges Norman’s leaks started as far back as October 2014 and carried on through the day of the cabinet committee meeting.
“The Crown maintains the leaks were strategic,” the filing says. “The leaks were made at times when either Norman was displeased with the direction being taken by a civil servant ... or when he knew Cabinet was considering or nearing a decision point.”
The Crown alleges Norman’s communication with Fraser included descriptions of the contents of cabinet memos or discussions. In one instance, Norman wrote an email in support of the Davie project to a personal email account used by then justice minister Peter McKay. Norman then forwarded it so Fraser could see what he wrote to McKay.
On the day of the Nov. 19, 2015 committee meeting involving Liberal ministers, the Crown’s evidence shows Norman was talking to CBC’s James Cudmore. Norman forwarded Cudmore a letter that saw Irving Shipbuilding urging Liberal ministers to back off the Davie project. Cudmore responded to Norman and said: “amazing. Thank you for this... thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
The Crown argues Norman must have known his conduct was illegal because he frequently urged his correspondents to keep their communication confidential. “FFS, keep me out of this,” he told Cudmore on the day of the meeting, using a profane acronym.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was charged in March with one count of breach of trust. He has pleaded not guilty.