Esteemed lawyer Marie Henein normally reserves her words for the courtroom. She has said that she doesn’t try cases on courthouse steps or in the media. But, last Wednesday Henein’s job for her client, Mark Norman, was finished and she encouraged the media to continue asking questions.
In a lengthy press conference Henein addressed why the breach of trust charge was stayed against Vice-Admiral Norman, who hopes to get his job back now that he has been vindicated. She listed the ways in which Trudeau’s government had blocked access to essential documents in the case but said “as to the why? Well, I don’t know. I’ll leave you to answer that.”
Norman indicated that he would be telling his full story over the upcoming days but added “There are lots of questions that need to be asked and answered about this whole process the last couple of years.”
The information Norman had been accused of mishandling related to a $700 million ship contract negotiated by the Harper government which Trudeau’s incoming government wanted to “revisit” after winning the 2015 election. When this news leaked to the press Trudeau was forced to finalize the contract and faced some humiliation.
Altering the deal would have cost the taxpayers millions in compensation to Davie shipyards, the company which ultimately completed the project on time and under budget.
A lieutenant in the Canadian military, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, said he’d seen “red flags” in Norman’s prosecution last summer. He read in The Ottawa Citizen that Norman was permanently removed from his position and denied help with his upcoming legal bills after being found “guilty” by the Canadian Forces but said that defied all known protocol.
There was no formal process undertaken which could allow for a finding of “guilt” and there had not even been a proper investigation in which Norman was given a chance to defend himself. The message to the lieutenant, and any other member of the military, was that if this could happen to the Vice-Admiral it could happen to any of them.
He suspected General Vance, who took action against Norman back in 2018, of acting as a “Trudeau lackey.” And it certainly has that appearance. While members of the military support whatever government is in office, that support is supposed to be neutral. But Norman’s dismissal without a hearing “made no sense.”
The lieutenant explained that there are steps taken when a breach occurs that involve “damage assessment” to determine the severity of the incident and assess the culpability or intent of the person involved. While allegations could be dismissed without completing the proper procedure there was no legitimate way to make a finding of guilt.
Having met Mark Norman and interacted with him a few times, the lieutenant felt that Norman’s foes had underestimated the kind of support that would rally behind the Vice-Admiral. He felt they had counted on Norman folding and not having the endurance to fight. Describing Norman as charming with a good sense of humour, he said Norman “gives people the impression that he really cares.”
In the press conference on Wednesday Norman showed the most emotion when describing how touching it had been to see WWII vets donating $5 to help with his legal fund.
That legal bill is now being paid by the government, as announced by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan earlier the same day. Marie Henein learned of that development during the course of the press conference. The word “oh” has never been uttered with so many layers of meaning before. Henein left that single word as the official response.
Henein’s devotion to and pride in Canada’s legal system have been a consistent focus in the few media interviews she grants. Her compliments to the prosecutors and judge were aimed at instilling public faith in the courts instead of using the moment to bask in the afterglow of her personal success.
She credited and named the entire legal team who worked with her in Norman’s defence and hit the perfect balance between highlighting the role they played in the prosecutor’s decision to stay the charge and the need for the media to continue their own investigations.
The trial had been set for August, which would have coincided with campaigns for the upcoming federal election. Henein had been determined to not let that date get pushed any further, despite the lack of cooperation from the government in providing third party records.
That Henein had to run her own investigation to find the witnesses RCMP had failed to interview is one of the issues the media should explore further. Not only are the taxpayers now covering the bill for Henein’s stellar legal work, we seem to owe her fees for police work as well.
Henein was clear that the RCMP had not quashed any disclosure information, they simply didn’t have it. Now we need to know why.
The thousands of documents that were still trickling into the courthouse when the case was dropped will likely remain undiscovered. The requirement for those productions was halted when the charges were stayed.
The material currently in Henein’s possession will be returned under confidentiality requirements and no longer be revealed to the public at trial. So what do we gain?
Many, including Marie Henein, have linked Norman’s prosecution to the recent scandal over SNC Lavalin—which resulted in former Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould being booted out of the Liberal caucus for not doing what Trudeau wanted.
Henein quipped that the four female lawyers on Norman’s team were respectfully not fired for doing their jobs.
The perception that all of Mark Norman’s misfortune was a result of a Prime Minister who throws tantrums like a petulant but powerful child is grounded in a few words said at the end of Wilson-Raybould’s recorded conversation with then Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.
She said, “I’m not under any illusion on how the Prime Minister has and gets things he wants.” Now the question that needs be answered the most is whether or not Trudeau will ever be held accountable.