OTTAWA — The federal government is defending its refusal to disclose the contents of a 60-page memo the country’s top bureaucrat sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
In a statement Friday, the Department of Justice said the memo sent by Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, to Trudeau last October was completely blacked out by government lawyers.
Norman’s lawyer Marie Henein revealed the memo’s existence during a pre-trial hearing Thursday, saying the government had withheld its contents because of solicitor-client privilege.
After both Henein and Justice Heather Perkins-McVey noted that Wernick was not a lawyer, the judge agreed to set aside two days in April for Henein to challenge the privilege claim.
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In its statement, the Justice Department said the memo was handled the same way as the other documents requested by Norman’s legal team and blacked out by government lawyers.
“These redactions were applied by legal counsel,” the Justice Department said, adding that “such redactions are consistent with the normal process applied to all documents.
“The final say on these redactions and relevance of the documents rests with the court.”
Friday’s statement is the latest from the Justice Department about the Norman case, some of which Henein flagged to the court earlier this month as being “inaccurate.”
Suspended as the military’s second-in-command in January 2017, Norman was charged last year with breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets to pressure the newly minted Trudeau government to approve a $700-million shipbuilding contract.
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That contract, negotiated by the Harper Conservatives and finalized by Trudeau’s Liberals in November 2015, involved leasing a converted civilian ship from Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec as a temporary naval supply vessel.
Norman has denied any wrongdoing and his politically charged trial is scheduled to start in August and run through much of the fall federal election.
Norman’s legal team has been fighting since October for access to thousands of internal government documents they say will prove the suspended military officer’s innocence and show that the government interfered in his case.
Subpoenas were issued last month for internal communications from senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office about the case, including emails, BlackBerry messages and other records.
© 2019 The Canadian Press