The GoFundMe campaign that has amassed more than $430,000 for Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s legal defence will remain active for now.
Lee Hammond, the retired army colonel who maintains the fundraising page, told Global News that the fund will continue accepting donations until the government specifies exactly how much of Norman’s legal bill it will cover, and other details.
“We have no idea when the government will reimburse his legal fees, how much they will reimburse, whether they will contest anything,” Hammond said in a phone interview on Thursday.
The Crown stayed its breach of trust charge against Norman on Wednesday due to a lack of evidence to convict him. Norman was accused of leaking cabinet secrets pertaining to a $668 million naval contract. Norman’s legal defence team, led by high-profile lawyer Marie Henein, brought forward new evidence in March during a meeting with the Crown, although it is unclear what that evidence was.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters on Wednesday that the government would cover Norman’s legal fees. When asked if that meant the entirety of his bill, Sajjan did not provide an exact amount. “Once we get all the information, then we’ll have a much better answer for that,” he said.
Hammond said he spoke to Norman by phone on Thursday about the GoFundMe campaign. “We feel like it would be premature to shut down the account down just yet,” he said. “We have to proceed with caution here.”
WATCH BELOW: Sajjan says discussions need to happen on payment of Norman’s legal fees
“The one thing to remember is that these charges were stayed. They weren’t withdrawn.” Unlike a criminal charge that is withdrawn, a stayed charge can be resurrected within one year.
Hammond said that the vast majority of the funds raised have already been paid to Norman’s legal team. But there has been an uptick in donations in recent days. Hammond added that no funds will be withdrawn from the account any further “until we have clarity.”
The GoFundMe campaign had received more than 3,460 donations since it was created last January, including from former defence minister Jason Kenney. The highest donation so far is $25,000 from an anonymous donor.
Donations continued to flow in throughout Thursday.
Sajjan’s department had previously declined to pay the legal fees for Norman, who once held the second-highest position in the Canadian military. Sources have told Global News that Norman’s legal fees could be in excess of $500,000.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Henein urged the government to “say sorry” to Norman. Norman said that he is looking forward to returning to work.