Thank you, Mr. Chair.
You had a chance yesterday and today to answer that question in the House, and unfortunately you didn't take those opportunities. I'll just say this: although we do have a camera in the room, it's still not the same as being live-televised. I don't believe that there is great interest in some of the other committee meetings that are taking place. I know that opposition parties requested that the heritage committee not be televised in order to free up the resources to televise this committee meeting.
With that said, I will just refer everyone to the May 12 letter that was signed by four members of the committee. It states quite clearly:
The Prime Minister on numerous occasions prejudiced the conduct of [the matter of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman] by inappropriately anticipating that the RCMP's investigation would result in a prosecution. This suggests that he and his cabinet had inappropriate access to information regarding an independent criminal proceeding.
It is also clear that the government tried to politically interfere in a shipbuilding contract. When this came to light he reacted by smearing the reputation of a highly respected naval officer. This has had a deleterious effect on the morale of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Should the Committee agree to study these troubling developments at an emergency meeting next week, we would be prepared to move the following motion:
That, the Committee invite the following witnesses to appear:
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman;
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau;
Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan;
Minister of Justice David Lametti;
Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale;
Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough;
Former President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison;
Former Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote;
Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance;
Former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick;
Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Katie Telford;
Former Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Gerald Butts;
Member of Parliament for Orléans Andrew Leslie; and
Director of Policy for the Minister of Democratic Institutions James Cudmore
that pursuant to Section 10(3) of the Parliament of Canada Act, the witnesses are to be sworn;
that each witness appear individually on a panel, for no less than one hour;
that all witnesses appear no later than May 24, 2019; and
that the committee meetings be televised.
That is why we're meeting today. Now I'll just speak to that motion.
As we know, last week the Crown stayed all charges against Vice-Admiral Norman for breach of trust, citing that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction. Right after that, Minister Sajjan announced that he would cover all the legal costs for Vice-Admiral Norman. Vice-Admiral Norman was serving as vice chief of the defence staff until his suspension in January of 2017, but he wasn't charged by the RCMP until March of 2018, so he was out of his role as vice chief of the defence staff for over 13 months.
Norman's defence team alleged during the court proceedings that the Prime Minister's Office was trying to direct the prosecution. That comes right from Norman's defence team. In February, the RCMP charged a second public official with breach of trust over the alleged leak of cabinet documents surrounding the $700-million naval shipbuilding contract for a supply ship.
There is growing evidence that Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government politically interfered in this case and tried to destroy Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. They besmirched his reputation and good character. As the prosecution made clear during the press conference last week, the documents that the Prime Minister had and the Liberals were fighting to keep secret from them and from Vice-Admiral Norman were the very documents that caused his charges to be dropped.
This is a very damning indictment on the Government of Canada. This strongly suggests that the Liberal government was deliberately suppressing this evidence in order to maintain a bogus and politically motivated prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. This is most certainly political interference, and Canadians deserve answers, as do we parliamentarians.
From withholding key documents that could have exonerated Vice-Admiral Norman to using code names in email exchanges to avoid access to information requests, to having government lawyers coach witnesses, this whole case has been politically motivated since day one.
Now, as opposition members, we'll work to show that the Prime Minister's behaviour is appalling, and it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to hold the government to account.
Whether you sit in the governing party or whether you sit in the opposition benches, we have a responsibility to hold the government to account. When we have a justice system that seems to be under attack, based upon on what we saw on SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould to what we see with Vice-Admiral Norman, it appears that we have a two-tiered justice system. It looks like there's one for the Prime Minister and his friends and there's another one for everyone else—like Vice-Admiral Norman.
There are a lot of questions that we need answers to. Vice-Admiral Norman said in his statement last week that he has more to say and a story to tell that Canadians will want to hear. Some of the information has been out in the public record, and I want to put it on our record here in Parliament. Why was Vice-Admiral Norman singled out for charges? Was this politically motivated? Was it coming straight from the Prime Minister or his office?
In Hansard the Prime Minister said this week, on May 14, that:
Measures were brought forward against the vice-admiral at the direction of the chief of defence staff. That is known by everyone.
That's one of the reasons why we need to have the chief of the defence staff, General Vance, here to answer to the Prime Minister's accusations.
David Pugliese wrote the following on December 4:
Thanks to the recently filed court records by Norman’s lawyer the public now knows that the Privy Council Office conducted its own internal investigation into the alleged leak of information. The Privy Council investigation determined that 73 people knew about the outcome of the meeting of cabinet ministers about the naval supply ship after it concluded.
We will provide that document that has every single name on it.
We have a question: Why wouldn't the Liberal government release the documents that were requested via subpoena from the court? In question period, Minister Lametti claimed that:
...as I have stated a number of times over the course of the last couple of weeks, this government, and my department in particular, [filled] all of [its] obligations with respect to documents requested in the proceedings.
We heard this over and over again in question period. He went on to say:
That system worked well today. Members do not have to just believe me. They can believe the lawyer for Vice-Admiral Norman, who said the rule of law worked.
However, what Marie Henein actually said was this:
You should be very concerned when anyone tries to erode the resilience of the justice system or demonstrates a failure to understand why it is so fundamental to the democratic values we hold so dear. There are times you agree with what happens in a court...[at] times you don’t. And that’s fine. But what you don’t do is you don’t put your finger and try to weigh in on the scales of justice. That is not what should [happen]....We have been, and you have all been with us for six months, as we have tried, day in and day out, to try to get that material. It should have been handed over. It should have been handed over to the RCMP. It should have been handed over to the prosecution. It was not. As to the why, I don't know. I leave you to answer that.
That's a direct quote from the press conference last week by Marie Henein.
As well, why did the Liberal government fight to keep these documents secret that could have exonerated Vice-Admiral Mark Norman months ago if not right off at the beginning of this terrible ordeal three years ago? The evidence again was reported by Murray Brewster with the CBC. It says:
It isn't clear whether the Mounties or the Crown knew before laying the breach-of-trust charge that Norman had clear marching orders from the Harper government.
That information [could] have been contained in a pile of Conservative-era cabinet documents that the current Liberal government fought to keep secret.
“The RCMP didn't have it, and didn't look [at] it,” said Norman's lawyer Marie Henein last week at a news conference after the Crown stayed the charge against her client.
That was last week, May 13, on CBC.
Now, there have been claims that some of our former cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Harper could have rejected to waive cabinet confidence. Well, Stephen Harper actually tweeted back on December 1, 2018, about a story in the Ottawa Citizen:
This story is false and should be corrected. I have indicated no objection to the release of any document relevant to the Norman case. This is a transparent effort to deflect attention from the current government.
So Prime Minister Harper had given Prime Minister Trudeau full authority to access those cabinet documents that related to the Vice-Admiral Norman case.
There's also a question about what the Liberal government was trying to cover up by using code names to evade access to information requests about Vice-Admiral Norman. This was reported, again by David Pugliese, back on December 20:
The Canadian Forces says it is looking into whether a general alleged to have boasted about purposely hiding records needed in the defence of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman acted in bad faith....One witness called by Norman’s lawyers to testify revealed that his superior, a brigadier general, told him Norman’s name was deliberately not used in internal files—meaning any search for records about Norman would come up empty.
The witness, a military officer, said he was processing an access-to-information request [back] in 2017 that returned no results. When he sought clarification, the witness testified the general smiled and told him: “Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back the nil return.”
That's terrible if they were being directed, within the Department of National Defence, to skirt around our access to information laws and purposely hide documentation that could have exonerated Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and that could have been used to give to the RCMP in their investigation as early as 2017.
There have also been questions around people being coached by legal advisers in the Prime Minister's Office. We also want to know who in the Department of National Defence and the Government of Canada counselled the defence minister's former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, not to search her personal phone for references to Vice-Admiral Norman, and why. This was reported by Lee Berthiaume on January 31:
Astravas testified that after being subpoenaed, she only searched her work phone and email account for records related to Norman, not her personal phone and account. She said that was in line with advice from Defence Department lawyers.
I think a lot of people are asking that...just a few days after retired general and member of Parliament for Orléans, Andrew Leslie, offered to testify in support of his friend Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Evan Solomon reported the following on May 3:
Former star candidate and now outgoing Liberal MP Andrew Leslie is on the witness list to testify, if called, against the government on behalf of suspended Vice-Admiral Mark Norman in the high-profile case about the alleged [leaks] of cabinet documents, CTV...has [just] learned.
What information did Andrew Leslie have that would add value to our investigation as a committee?
We also want to know what evidence Vice-Admiral Norman's defence team presented to the Crown that immediately caused the public prosecutor to stay the charges because they had no opportunity to convict. Jim Bronskill of the Canadian Press wrote the following:
RCMP investigators say they’re not sure why the Mark Norman case collapsed because they haven’t seen the new evidence that led to the stay of a breach-of-trust charge against the naval officer.
If the RCMP couldn't get that information, we need to know what that information is. We know that there are now reports by the media that the RCMP is looking for that information. Again, the government is in possession of it. Why wouldn't they share that information with the RCMP? The public prosecutor has it because it was given to them by the defence team. These are questions we have that can best be answered here at our committee table.
The question is, did the Liberal government use Vice-Admiral Norman as an example of what will happen to anyone who opposes the Prime Minister's political agenda? Just recently, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute wrote a report on the fighter jet fiasco. They referenced the Norman case as follows:
The Norman affair has made it particularly apparent the lengths to which the government will go to stifle leaks.
They also wrote this:
...the Liberal government has successfully employed a number of techniques to conceal its historic levels of procurement mismanagement. These include an unprecedented gag order on military and civilian personnel, the effects of which have been magnified by the upcoming trial of Vice Admiral Mark Norman for breach of trust over leaked cabinet documents relating to the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment...contract.
That's why we need to hear from Minister Qualtrough, Scott Brison and Judy Foote.
I think when you really look at the question, was there political interference in the court by the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office...? Janice Dickson wrote the following on February 11, looking at Justice Perkins-McVey, who actually made some comments on it at the trial on February 11:
The allegation of Privy Council Office intervention prompted the Ontario Court of Justice judge presiding over the...case on Monday to question the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. “So much for the independence of the PPSC,” Justice Heather Perkins-McVey interjected.
Partly redacted notes and an e-mail exchange between defence lawyer Christine Mainville and one of the lead prosecutors, Barbara Mercier, were filed in court. Ms. Mercier wrote in an e-mail that the notes from meetings with officials at the Privy Council are redacted because they deal with “trial strategy.”
So the Crown prosectors were meeting with the Privy Council lawyers and legal advisers to the Prime Minister about trial strategy. That really calls into question the independence of our judicial system, especially with the director of public prosecutions, who is supposed to be completely at arm's length from the government.
Janice Dickson continued:
Ms. Mainville said the Crown’s position is “more concerning” than the allegations relating to SNC-Lavalin because the Crown dealt directly with the Privy Council Office.
This is much more damning than what we heard in the SNC-Lavalin affair. That's why we need to dig down to the bottom of this, to ensure the independence of our judicial system.
Murray Brewster went on to report the following on February 15:
The top lawyer at the Privy Council Office apparently asked federal prosecutors if it was possible to “engineer the issues at stake” in the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The remarks—made on Sept. 14, 2018 and attributed to PCO lawyer Paul Shuttle—were contained in prosecution notes entered into evidence at a pretrial hearing involving the former vice-chief of the defence staff, who faces one count of breach of trust.
Engineering the issues at stake: Again, that is interference, persuasion and inappropriate contact between the PMO, the PCO, with the director of public prosecutions.
I ask that we as members of the Standing Committee on Defence take this opportunity to pull back the curtains and let the light in so that we can have a fulsome discussion and investigation, under parliamentary privilege for our witnesses, and take the time to dig down to the bottom of this. We know that members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans are very, very concerned about how Vice-Admiral Norman has been treated. They're concerned that the gag orders, the intimidation and the example set by charging and prosecuting Vice-Admiral Norman have sent a chill throughout the forces and brought in this culture of intimidation and a culture of fear because of the actions of the government.
For those of us who have large military communities in our riding, we know that those members are very worried about the mistreatment of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. I would request that each member who has those connections with the military and with our veterans communities...would want to get down to the bottom of this; that we get down to the truth and allow Canadians and us as parliamentarians to ensure that we have a truly independent legal system, that there is separation between the state and our justice department, and that when it comes down to criminal trials and prosecution, we are guaranteed that politics isn't interfering in the independence of our judicial system.