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RCMP accuse Canadian Forces 2nd-highest ranking officer of leaking secret government documents

Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Mark Norman (left) speaks with Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd during a change of command ceremony, Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Ottawa.
Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Mark Norman (left) speaks with Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd during a change of command ceremony, Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Ottawa. The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – New court documents appear to have pulled back the curtains on one of the military’s most closely guarded secrets: why its second-highest-ranking officer was suspended in January.

An affidavit released by an Ottawa court and first obtained by the Globe and Mail, and later by Global News, shows the RCMP suspect Vice-Adm. Mark Norman of leaking secret government documents.

The affidavit and supporting materials were used by police to obtain a search warrant for Norman’s Ottawa home earlier this year.

Specifically, the top military commander is suspected of violating section 122 of the Criminal Code (breach of trust) and if convicted, he could face up to five years behind bars.

No charges have been laid against Norman, whose lawyer says her client has been caught in a bureaucratic crossfire.

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WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau addresses firing of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman

Click to play video 'Prime Minister Trudeau addresses firing of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman' Prime Minister Trudeau addresses firing of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman
Prime Minister Trudeau addresses firing of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman – Jan 17, 2017

The secret documents Norman allegedly leaked relate to a $700-million contract to convert a civilian ship into a new resupply vessel for the navy, after its previous two resupply ships were forced into early retirement.

The Liberals had quietly considered cancelling the contract after taking power, which the Conservative government awarded to Quebec City shipyard Chantier Davie, without a competition, in 2015.

That drew criticism from other shipbuilders in Canada.

According to the court documents, details of a committee meeting where the potential for delaying approval of the contract was discussed were somehow leaked to former CBC reporter James Cudmore, who now works as an adviser to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

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“Cudmore’s article clearly demonstrates a source privy to the discussions held during the committee meeting disclosed the confidential information to an unauthorized person after the committee meeting,” the affidavit notes.

The trail from the committee room to the news article is not clear, however. Emails attached to the heavily redacted affidavit seem to indicate that Ottawa-area lobbyists with connections to the Davie shipyard and its local executives may have been involved along the way in an attempt to pressure the government into sticking with the lucrative Davie deal.

One of the offices searched by the police was that of Spencer Fraser, CEO of the shipyard company in charge of the interim resupply ship project.

READ MORE: Vice-chief of defence staff ‘relieved’ of duties without explanation

In one e-mail discussion, lobbyist Brian Mersereau, chairman of Hill and Knowlton, writes that “the only thing we can do is sic the media and the union” on Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, and encourage him to put pressure on Treasury Board President Scott Brison.

A few days later, Cudmore’s article appeared.

The Liberals eventually decided to move ahead with the contract after the documents leaked to the media revealed that the government would have to pay Davie $89 million if it was cancelled.

Brison, who was interviewed by the RCMP as part of their investigation, is quoted in the affidavit as saying the leak put the government in an awkward position and “did an awful lot to limit our ability to what we’d [the committee] intended to do, and that is more due diligence on this.”
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*With files from Global News

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