Vice Admiral Mark Norman has faced an uphill battle getting the documents from the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence that he needs to defend himself against a charge of breach of trust. That charge is related to allegations by the RCMP that Norman leaked information to a shipbuilder about Liberal government plans to derail the company’s project to provide a supply ship to the Royal Canadian Navy.
Norman has pleaded not guilty and counters that he was following orders from the previous Conservative government to maintain links with the firm and to make sure the supply ship project proceeded.
In October subpoenas were issued that required DND and Canadian Forces officials to search for related records. This third-party record application was a required legally binding search of documents.
In December the court heard from a military officer who testified that a brigadier general allegedly boasted of a method used by the Canadian Forces to avoid having to produce records about Norman. The name of the witness is protected by the court to prevent retaliation by the Canadian Forces. The witness testified that the military would not refer to Norman by name in various documents, that way thwarting any search for records about him.
When this situation was revealed in court, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance gave an interview with the CBC’s Murray Brewster expressing his outrage.
“I’m alarmed and somewhat disgusted by this, if it’s true,” Vance said in the interview. “I cannot say enough about how bad this is, if it’s true.”
“If it was done, if it has been done, it’s wrong, dead wrong and we’ll stop it.”
The Dec. 21, 2018 online article had the title: “Vance erupts over report that DND evaded information requests on Mark Norman”
But last week after Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Vance was questioned by Norman’s lawyer Marie Henein, the public learned that Vance’s eruption, alarm and disgust over the situation was actually rather limited. Some of the testimony is below:
HENEIN: So on Dec. 21 you become aware that a person has testified that (Norman’s) name was not used to avoid (Access to Information) requests. At that point, on Dec. 21, after taking the time to speak to the media can you please tell me what steps you took at that point to advise either the Department of Justice or the prosecution that there are other ways that Vice Admiral Norman is referred to that they should be aware of?
VANCE: I spoke to the deputy minister and expressed my concern.
HENEIN: Did you direct anybody to disclose the other ways that Vice Admiral Norman is referred to?
VANCE: I did not. I did not because I didn’t think that was the issue at hand. I take your point and I learned something today.
Also last week in court Henein revealed that the military had what she termed as codewords for the Vice Admiral Norman, again suggesting a concerted effort with the DND and the Canadian Forces to avoid having to produce the documents needed for Norman’s defence. Among the terminology used was C34, N3, Kracken, NM and the boss. Vance, however, stated in court that the terms are not codewords – they are common military terms he claimed – and there is nothing sinister about their usage.
Did Vance tell the Department of Justice officials who were co-ordinating the search for “Norman” records within the DND and Canadian Forces about these terms they should look for?
The testimony continues:
HENEIN: Am I right that nothing was done to alert the DOJ (Department of Justice) to provide these military terms?
VANCE: I alerted the deputy minister of my concern and thereafter I don’t know what happened.
Here is more testimony about that subject:
HENEIN: How on earth would anyone know that you refer to him as C34, N3 or Kracken or NM or the boss? How could anyone know that is how you refer to him?
HENEIN: No, I’m asking a question.
VANCE: In my view therefore it would be on us to ensure the search terms directed inside the department are broad enough and capture the various ways his position and title would come up.
HENEIN: You did not do that
VANCE: (silence for several seconds).
HENEIN: You did not do that.
HENEIN: You did not do that. The motion for documents was filed in October. Documents had been requested by Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Rasmussen (Justice Dept. officials co-ordinating the collection of DND/government documents) who are working very hard to collect documents. Did you at any time write to them and say to them the search should include all the other records? Did you ever say that?
VANCE: No Ma’am. I, I, we are now running outside the boundaries of my responsibilities to the Armed Forces. I don’t manage the Access to Information program.
HENEIN: I’m not asking about access to information. I’m asking about a third party record application.
VANCE: Right. The third party record application is managed by the department. I did not give that direction. I have since given that direction.
At one point the Crown prosecutor tried to stop the questioning of Gen. Vance but the judge overruled that and allowed Henein to continue.