Mark Norman’s lawyer raises concerns over Senate study, will answer Monday on if he’ll testify

Mark Norman’s lawyer raises concerns over Senate study, will answer Monday on if he’ll testify
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OTTAWA — The Senate’s defence committee will finally get an answer on Monday over whether Vice-Admiral Mark Norman will agree to testify over the circumstances around his controversial prosecution.

But in correspondence sent Sunday and obtained by the National Post, Norman’s lawyer Marie Henein told the committee’s clerk her view is that senators may not have the time and information they need to fully examine the matter. She said she’s concerned the committee’s brief study “will not be of assistance to the Canadian public.”

Henein also said she’d only received the committee’s actual invitation requests this weekend, because they had been sent to a general email inbox at her law firm rather than to her directly.

A deadline for Norman’s testimony is looming as the Senate is set to break for the summer at the end of this week, possibly not to return until after the fall election. The Conservatives want the committee to continue to hold hearings into the Norman case after the Senate rises, but they expect the request to be blocked by Sen. Peter Harder, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate.

The Senate defence committee voted on May 28 to “examine and report on the circumstances that led the RCMP to lay, now stayed, criminal charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, including the scope and nature of the involvement in that process by any other persons.”

Given that I have spent two and a half years on this matter, I am not sure how a meaningful inquiry can proceed without a detailed review of the case and documents

The criminal charge against Norman — one count of breach of trust, stemming from allegations he leaked confidential information about the government’s disposition towards a project to procure a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy — was stayed on May 8.

Along with Norman, the motion named Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance as witnesses who should be invited for testimony. It also authorized the committee to invite anyone else it chooses.

Norman’s testimony was prioritized above all else and the committee has been waiting to hear an answer. But it turns out there was miscommunication, as Henein was unaware until this weekend that the clerk had been emailing the formal invitation to her law firm’s general information inbox and not her direct email. (The firm’s website does list the general email as the contact info under Henein’s biography.)

In an email sent to the clerk on Sunday, Henein said she’d been “surprised” at the lack of communication from the committee, noting she’d also received no voicemail, letters or faxes. “My email is well known,” she told the clerk, noting it is on court documents and on correspondence with many government departments.

“I have further repeatedly followed up with my client, Vice Admiral Norman, as late as this past Friday who confirmed he had not been approached by anyone on the Senate Committee,” she said.

Henein said they take the committee’s request “very seriously,” but are weighing the concerns they have over how the testimony will take place.

“Given that I have spent two and a half years on this matter, I am not sure how a meaningful inquiry can proceed without a detailed review of the case and documents,” she said. “(Oral) testimony in response to questions asked by individuals who have not reviewed the extensive record as to how these charges came to be laid and how the case proceeded in my view will not be of assistance to the Canadian public.”

The other members of the committee would like to have Norman first

Henein concludes the email by saying they are deliberating and “will respond to you tomorrow.”

The committee, however, only has a limited amount of time to hear testimony even if Norman says yes — unless an agreement is reached to allow the committee to hold more meetings past Thursday or Friday, when the Senate is expected to break for the summer.

The Senate Conservatives are pushing for that extra time and Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais, the committee’s deputy chair, has requested a public meeting on Monday to discuss the path forward.

To add extra meetings, the committee would first have to agree to it and then it would need agreement from the Senate’s leadership — including Harder, the government representative. But Dagenais told the National Post he met with Harder last week and was told no permission would be forthcoming. “Sen. Harder told me directly, no,” Dagenais said in an interview.

Dagenais said he has a list of witnesses he would still like to hear from, including former Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison and others who were central to the Norman court case. But even if it turns out Norman will not testify, Dagenais still hopes the committee will move forward with invitations to Vance, Sajjan and Brison to testify.

“For myself, if it’s possible to begin with Vance, Sajjan and Brison, that’s good,” Dagenais said. “But the other members of the committee would like to have Norman first.”

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