Charges against Canadian Vice-Admiral over shipbuilding contract dropped

This week, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman of Canada’s Royal Navy was cleared after the Crown’s federal prosecutors stayed their charge of breach of trust citing no "reasonable prospect of conviction." In March 2018, the second-in-command of the military was suspended and charged for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets in favour of Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding in relation to a CAD $700-million shipbuilding contract when the Conservative party was in government. The RCMP has not commented on specifics of its investigation since a second criminal case is still before the courts, involving a different public servant also accused of leaking details on the shipbuilding deal.

The Crown says the decision was made solely by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and denied that there was any interference in that decision. The federal government has announced that it will pay Vice-Admiral Norman's substantial legal fees, which have grown to more than CAD $500,000. Vice-Admiral Norman's legal team, which is led by prominent defence lawyer Marie Henein, says the federal government owes him a formal apology. “Vice-Admiral Norman has been through a great deal, his family has been through a great deal. There is a supply ship that is operational, on time, and under budget thanks in part to Vice-Admiral Norman. I think it’s time to say sorry to him,” Ms. Henein said on Wednesday. Vice-Admiral Norman has not ruled out pursuing a civil suit against the government.

Ms. Henein had previously questioned why members of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government had not been questioned and revealed that her office had been conducting its own investigation for several months that included interviews with former Conservative ministers and staff. Some have questioned whether Vice-Admiral Norman would ever have been charged if the RCMP or the public-prosecution service had reached out to the Conservatives.

This week former Conservative Ministers Jason Kenney, Erin O'Toole, and Peter MacKay said that they had spoken to Vice-Admiral Norman's lawyers but the RCMP had never approached them. In a televised interview, now-Alberta Premier Kenney said he reached out to Vice-Admiral Norman in the spring of 2015 to get input from the navy on procuring a naval supply ship. Mr. Kenney said that military brass wanted a 30-month procurement process but that he had a hunch the navy wanted to get something in the water faster. During a conversation at a dinner, Mr. Kenney said that Vice-Admiral Norman told him that the Davie ship was what best suited their needs, and Mr. Kenney ultimately took that advice to Cabinet.

Mr. Kenney is now raising questions about why the RCMP did “little or nothing” to talk to members of the previous Conservative government ahead of, or as part of the now stayed court process, saying, “Obviously I had material information about this whole transaction this whole issue and I never heard from the Crown, I would have quite happily cooperated with them as well.