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Vice-Adm. Mark Norman is being scapegoated, lawyer says at 1st court appearance

Click to play video: 'Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says “it is self-evident” that her client is being made a scapegoat'
Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says “it is self-evident” that her client is being made a scapegoat
Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says "it is self-evident" that her client is being made a scapegoat – Apr 10, 2018

The second-in-command of the Canadian military appeared before a judge for the first time Tuesday morning in a closely watched case that has sent shock waves through the military.

Vice-Adm. Mark Norman is charged with breach of trust for allegedly leaking information regarding a cabinet decision in November 2015 to consider delaying approval of a deal to get the navy a badly needed interim supply ship.

Both of Canada’s two remaining supply ships had to be retired unexpectedly in 2014 and the navy was left with no way to refuel at sea.

READ MORE: Vice-Admiral Mark Norman charged with breach of trust over alleged shipbuilding leak

Since Norman was suspended in January 2017, both Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have publicly spoken in support of the decision by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance to suspend Norman, and speculation that the case against Norman is politically motivated have dogged discussions around it so far.

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Marie Henein, who is representing Norman, addressed the question of whether he is being turned into a scapegoat in a brief scrum with reporters following his appearance in court.

“I think that’s self-evident, isn’t it?”

Appearing in full navy regalia, Norman arrived at the Ottawa courthouse shortly before 9 AM EST with Henein and sat straight-backed and alert as the judge brought his case before the court.

Following a brief appearance lasting a little over two minutes, Henein and the Crown agreed to set a date for a pretrial hearing and stepped out to arrange dates and times.

That will take place on May 15.

Henein and Norman then came back into court for several more minutes and the Crown agreed to also set a date for his next remand appearance.

That will take place on May 16.

WATCH BELOW: RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets

Click to play video: 'RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets'
RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets

Both Henein and the Crown stressed the desire to move the case forward as quickly as possible given it has been more than a year since Norman was suspended from his position as vice-chief of defence staff in January 2017 in an unprecedented move.

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Prior to that, the RCMP had spent more than a year investigating the source of a report in November 2015 that cabinet was considering cancelling the $664-million, seven-year lease on a refurbished commercial supply ship to be provided by Quebec’s Davie shipyard.

WATCH: High-ranking member of Canadian military suddenly relieved of duty

Click to play video: 'High ranking member of Canadian military suddenly relieved of duty'
High ranking member of Canadian military suddenly relieved of duty

News that the cabinet was considering axing the deal came days after the heads of Irving and Seaspan, two shipbuilding firms that hold virtual monopolies on commissioned work for combat and non-combat vessels procured by the government, sent letters to several cabinet members including Treasury Board President Scott Brison asking them to axe the deal.

Brison, a Nova Scotia MP, later was quoted in unredacted court documents as having told the RCMP the leak of that decision hurt the cabinet’s ability to do its job.

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READ MORE: Vice-Adm. Mark Norman to appear for 1st court date over alleged 2015 shipbuilding leak

Norman, who was head of the navy at the time of the alleged leak, has earned a reputation as someone who is not afraid to call out bureaucratic delays and political hand-wringing in the notoriously problem-plagued area of naval procurement.

Emails released in those unredacted court documents last year detailed the extent of the tense relations between Norman and members of the Irvings, a powerful New Brunswick family that owns the shipyard that wanted to have its supply ship proposal re-evaluated.

The deal with Davie, located in the riding of Conservative MP Steven Blaney, had been arranged under the Conservatives before the Liberals swept Atlantic Canada as part of their majority win in 2015.

Norman himself also spoke in what is the first public appearance by him since he was suspended in January 2017.

“I’m anxious to get to court, get this dealt with as quickly as possible and get back to serving the people of Canada,” Norman said.

Henein also stressed she was “eager to get this dealt with.”

“I’m tired of shadow boxing,” she said.

“It’s time to step in the courtroom and deal with the evidence. I don’t try my cases on the courthouse steps. I try them in a courtroom and that is what we are ready to do. So we want to get this going, get this dealt with and let the public know exactly what this case is about.”

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