Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Vice Admiral Mark Norman was removed from command on Jan. 9, 2017.
OTTAWA — Canada’s military leaders ordered the removal of items belonging to Vice Admiral Mark Norman from Defence headquarters in Ottawa even though the RCMP investigation into the senior officer has not resulted in any charges.
Norman’s personal effects were stripped from his office and photographed by military personnel before being put in storage, sources told the Ottawa Citizen.
The RCMP has been investigating Norman for more than a year now for allegedly leaking information about the government’s shipbuilding program. It has not laid any charges.
The vice admiral, suspended six months ago by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, is still on full pay. He has earned more than $100,000 so far this year even though he is prohibited from going to work.
The RCMP suspects Norman provided updates on a Liberal plan to derail the navy’s interim supply ship program to officials with the company building the vessel. The RCMP alleges Norman did so in the hope of influencing the government to proceed with the delivery of the vessel.
The interim supply ship, known as Project Resolve, is seen as critical to the Royal Canadian Navy because the service has been without its own vessel to resupply its warships at sea.
Norman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, has released a statement in which the vice admiral unequivocally denies any wrongdoing. Instead she noted Norman has been “caught in the bureaucratic cross-fire” but did not elaborate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested that Norman will face trial, prompting concerns among the admiral’s supporters about whether he will get a fair hearing.
Defence department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed that Norman’s items were removed so Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent could move into the office. Parent is acting vice chief of the defence staff. “His (Norman’s) personal effects were photographed to ensure none of the items go missing,” Le Bouthillier noted. “These items will be stored at NDHQ until further notice.”
The Canadian Forces cannot say if and when Norman will return to duty.
Parent started the job on May 30. Previously, Vice Admiral Ron Lloyd was doing both his job as head of the navy and acting vice chief.
The RCMP has declined to comment on the Norman case.
The previous Conservative government approved Project Resolve, which contracted Davie shipyards in Quebec to quickly convert a commercial vessel into a naval supply ship. The ship had already been delivered to Davie when James D. Irving, co-chief executive officer of Davie’s rival, Irving Shipbuilding, wrote a letter on Nov. 17, 2015, to then Procurement Minister Judy Foote and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Irving requested its proposal for a similar vessel, already rejected by the Conservative government, be examined.
After receiving Irving’s letter the Liberal government put Project Resolve on hold.
In an email to a naval colleague, Norman complained about the “blatant politics” of the file and what he called Irving’s efforts to block Davie. He considered resigning.
Details about the Liberals’ decision to put Project Resolve on hold, as well as Irving’s letter and details of cabinet discussions about the matter, were leaked to the CBC in November 2015. The leak embarrassed the new Trudeau government and sparked outrage in Quebec about the potential loss of hundreds of jobs if Davie were to lose the ship deal. The Liberals made a quick retreat and shortly afterwards, Project Resolve went ahead.
But the RCMP was brought in to find whoever had embarrassed the government by leaking information.
Irving Shipbuilding has denied allegations of political meddling.