The Liberal-dominated House of Commons defence committee has blocked a pitch by opposition MPs for a committee probe of the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The Conservatives and New Democrats wanted to conduct hearings to determine how the case against the military’s former second-in-command collapsed, and what led to him being charged with breach of trust in the first place.
The Crown withdrew the charge on May 8 — over two years after Norman was publicly named and then later formally accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to a $668 million contract to lease a supply ship for the navy.
The motion to study the Norman case was defeated this evening, after the Liberal MPs who form the majority on the committee said they were not convinced by almost 90 minutes of opposition arguments.
Liberal MP Sherry Romando, a former member of the military who was not a voting member of the committee, described the claim that there was political interference in Norman’s case as “spin.”
Her colleague MP Julie Dzerowicz went even further, dismissing the notion of hearings as a “fabricated political exercise.”
New Democrat MP Randall Garrison tried to salvage the investigation by proposing that the committee invite only Norman to tell his story.
MPs had planned to call Trudeau to testify
The opposition MPs had hoped the hearings would substantiate allegations that the Liberal government politically interfered in the prosecution. Aside from Norman, they wanted to call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and a host of other high-profile Liberals.
Legal experts have said that the best chance of hearing Norman’s unfiltered version of events would have been to bring him before a parliamentary committee, which grants extraordinary privilege and latitude to those summoned to testify.
While still a serving member of the military, Norman is subject to military regulations that limit his public statements.
When Norman was charged, the Crown alleged he had leaked the results of a Liberal cabinet committee meeting to a now-former CBC journalist. They also also claimed he had provided secret information on 11 other occasions to an executive at the Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que., which was involved in the leasing contract.
His lawyer Marie Henein fought a six-month battle for access to federal government documents needed to defend the former navy commander.
In addition to her claim that the government interfered politically in her client’s case, Henein alleged the government obstructed disclosure of the documents.
The case ultimately unravelled after the defence presented new evidence to the Crown, including interviews with key individuals who had not been interviewed by the RCMP.
The Mounties released a statement last week defending their handling of the case and — as late as Monday — had turned aside further requests for comment. The federal police force did grant one interview to The Canadian Press news agency, in which investigators said they hadn’t seen the new information that terminated the prosecution and wanted to review it.