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‘We did it well’: Lametti defends Justice Department’s response to subpoenas in Mark Norman case

‘We did it well’: Lametti defends Justice Department’s response to subpoenas in Mark Norman case
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OTTAWA — Justice Minister David Lametti says he’s satisfied his department did the best job it could in finding, reviewing and disclosing thousands of government documents requested by Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s defence team.

Norman’s lawyers argued the documents were crucial to his ability to defend himself, and they criticized the department for the lengthy, arduous process in disclosing them — criticism that was sometimes echoed by the judge.

In an interview with the National Post, Lametti said his department acted in good faith in response to the subpoenas, and described the task as “extraordinarily complex.” The initial Justice Department search identified about 140,000 documents in seven government departments, including emails, text messages, cabinet memos and various other types. That was eventually winnowed down to just under 10,000 documents.

“I’m quite satisfied that it was a good process that we put into place,” he said. “Did it take a lot of time and effort? Absolutely. Did we have to do it? Absolutely. I wish there was a faster way to do it. I wish there was a more efficient way to do it that wasn’t so taxing on the various parts of the department… But we did what we had to do, and I think, in speaking to the people responsible within the Justice Department, that we did it well.”

The breach of trust charge against Norman was stayed on May 8 after prosecutors concluded they had no reasonable prospect of a conviction.

Lametti said his view is that the case shows the criminal justice system works, and operates independently from politics.

He also pointed to media reports that said it was evidence from members of the previous Conservative government given to the defence that appears to have swayed the prosecutors.

I wish there was a faster way to do it. I wish there was a more efficient way to do it that wasn t so taxing on the various parts of the department

“I would add that if other people on the opposition side of the House had information, they should have given it to the RCMP a lot sooner,” he said. “Maybe Mr. Norman wouldn’t have had such a long ordeal. But the system worked, and there’s an ongoing responsibility on the part of a prosecutor to be open to new evidence.”

Pushed on whether it’s the RCMP’s fault for not pursuing that evidence, Lametti demurred.

“I only know what I read in the paper, which is (Conservatives) seem to have had evidence that they only very recently gave over,” he said. “But we all have obligations to produce evidence that’s relevant.”

Norman was charged in March 2018 with a single count of breach of trust over an allegation he systematically leaked confidential details about a $700-million navy supply ship project.

In October 2018, Norman’s lawyers filed an application for third-party records, which contained 52 requests for records held by the government.

Under that process, though, the Justice Department and the Privy Council Office still had to review every document to highlight for the judge what might potentially need to be redacted.

“Virtually every document will have some element that’s covered by some kind of privilege or some kind of cabinet secrecy,” Lametti said. “So we needed to put in place a process, and so it simply takes time. Yes there were complaints…My understanding is we worked in good faith, my department, in coordinating all of that. Remember that these are documents that are normally meant to be kept secret, so there’s also going to be a reticence. But we fulfilled our obligation to the court.”

Even so, Norman’s defence team made several successful arguments in court that the searches were not as comprehensive as they should have been. In some cases the search terms weren’t being used consistently across departments. In others, personal phones and email accounts weren’t being included in response to subpoenas for “all communications.”

Justice Perkins-McVey called it “baffling” that the Crown still had not handed over the requested documents and ordered the Justice Department to search again for them.

“This was an extraordinarily complex request for documents,” Lametti said. “At every stage, in good faith, we adjusted. There were things that one wouldn’t anticipate, necessarily. We fixed this thing in an ongoing way as we moved forward.”

After the case was stayed, Norman’s lawyer Marie Henein argued the government shouldn’t have been fighting so hard in the first place to hang onto documents and fight the subpoena requests. “No person in this country should ever walk into a courtroom and feel like they are fighting their elected government or any sort of political factors at all,” she said.

Richard Warnica: You will come to realize that Keanu Reeves defies detail. He simply exists.

Norman was in his kitchen in April 2017 when his wife Bev, astonished, called out to him. I think the prime minister was just talking about you

I d advised Lord Black to climb into the back of my pick-up, I d throw a tarp over him and drive ...

When my assistant said there was a call from the White House, I picked up, said Hello and started to ask if this was a prank
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