‘I think it’s shocking it has taken 12 months to still have no resolution,’ says military expert
The RCMP’s case against the country’s second-highest military officer was placed into the hands of prosecutors last summer, CBC News has learned.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is yet to face charges, however, and some experts say his wait for justice has not only taken too long, but it could drag out even further.
He is alleged to have leaked cabinet secrets to executives of a Quebec shipyard in the fall of 2015 as the new Liberal government debated the merits of a leased supply ship for the navy.
It has been exactly one year since Norman was unceremoniously suspended from his job. Sources with knowledge of the file who asked to remain anonymous said investigators handed the case to prosecutors last July.
The investigation remains active. The RCMP is not commenting on developments, RCMP spokesperson Stephanie Dumoulin said Monday.
Court documents released last spring said the Mounties were looking into Norman and one other unnamed government official, accusing them of leaking cabinet confidences to an executive at Chantier-Davie, a shipbuilding company based in Levis, Que.
The length of time it has taken to investigate the leaks has left some observers dumbfounded.
“It’s completely unprecedented and I think it’s shocking it has taken 12 months to still have no resolution,” said Dave Perry, an analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
“It has been a year of investigation, a year of putting this person and their families lives in limbo and it’s been a year that the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence has been without a vice chief of the defence staff.”
Investigations can take years
The high-profile case was sparked in late 2015 when a series of published reports detailed the newly elected Liberal government’s hesitation over a $668-million contract to lease a temporary supply ship for the navy.
The leaks, Treasury Board President Scott Brison told the RCMP, impeded the federal cabinet’s ability to do its job.
Norman was accused in court documents of possibly being the source of that leak. The information, police claim, was passed through a shipyard executive to Ottawa lobbyists and eventually to the media.
Search warrants ordered released by a judge last spring said the Mounties also suspected one other government official. Who that person might be is still unknown.
Following an RCMP raid on his home in early January of last year, Norman was suspended, but not stripped of his command.
The amount of time the Mounties have taken should not be a surprise given the high-profile nature of the case, said an expert in the RCMP and national security investigations.
Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy, said he has known of some investigations that have taken up to a decade.
The stakes are incredibly high for Norman and the Canadian military’s reputation as an institution that safeguards secrets and that has “necessitated a very thorough turning over of every stone,” he added.
The RCMP team, which led the Norman investigation, is the same one that looked into the senate expense scandal and the unsuccessful prosecution of senator Mike Duffy.
Navy leadership revolving door
Leuprecht said the sensitive and international investigations unit also has a lot riding on the outcome of this case.
“Given the length of time it [the Norman investigation] has taken and given that the public broadcaster is making a point of highlighting how long its is taking, whatever comes of the investigation, it had better be 100 per cent waterproof in the results,” Leuprecht said. “If it doesn’t it could have serious repercussions.”
Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent, an air force flag officer, has stepped into Norman’s role on an acting basis last May, but it is unclear how long he will remain in the job.
Prior to that, the current head of the navy Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd picked up the duties, which involve the day-to-day running of the entire military.
The revolving door has had an impact, said Perry.
“I think it has definitely been a blow to the armed forces,” he said. “It’s not been good for morale in several respects particularly among the people in the navy I know, where Admiral Norman is extraordinarily well regarded.”