Sajjan says he regrets the process Mark Norman had to go through
Published Sunday, May 12, 2019 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 12, 2019 9:12AM EDT
OTTAWA – Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says that he regrets what Vice-Admiral Mark Norman had to go through over the years-long legal battle that came to an end this week when federal prosecutors stayed the breach of trust charge he was facing.
“I have a deep respect for everybody who serves… I regret that the fact that Admiral Norman had to go through [it]… I regret the fact that the system had to go through this,” Sajjan said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period. “But when something like this happens… you have to respect the independence of the process.”
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors stayed the charge citing no "reasonable prospect of conviction."
Norman served as the second-in-command of the military until he was charged in March 2018 with breach of trust for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets in favour of Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding in relation to a $700-million shipbuilding contract. Norman, who was suspended from the military as a result of the charge, had denied any wrongdoing.
Not long after the charge was stayed, the federal government announced that it will be paying Norman's substantial legal fees. Norman says he is now looking forward to returning to work, though it remains unclear what position he’ll be returning to.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said that the stay eliminates the conditions that caused Norman to be relieved of his duties, and he’ll be talking to the newly-vindicated senior military member about his return to work very soon.
Sajjan said that at the time he supported Vance’s decision to suspend Norman in January 2017, and the decision to not initially cover Norman’s now more than $500,000 in legal fees. However, he says the situation has now changed.
“In this case here we’ve gone through a process and now Gen. Vance will be meeting with Admiral Norman to talk about next steps,” Sajjan said.
Sajjan defended the government’s involvement in the case, saying that decisions couldn’t be made “based on feelings.”
“Yes I am concerned when information is leaked. Yes something has to be done about it, and in this case here, yes there was an allegation. The RCMP investigated, people can talk about how that process went but it’s very important for all of us, and especially us in his postion to make sure that the process was completely independent and that is exactly what has happened,” Sajjan said.
“It is very important when something as serious as this, that you allow the process to take its course. It has.”
Though, he stopped short of offering Norman an apology, something the opposition parties and Norman’s defence team have said is owed to him.
Former Conservative justice minister Peter MacKay was one of a few members of the previous Conservative government that spoke to the defence, but were never contacted by federal investigators about their interactions with Norman and the view within the Harper government at the time about the naval contract.
On CTV’s Question Period, he called the Norman saga a “massive miscarriage of justice.”
“In our justice system, for the Department of National Defence and for Canada broadly, this was a very dark chapter in the way that Mark Norman was treated,” he said.
On Friday, the RCMP defended their handling of the Norman case, telling The Canadian Press that the investigation was "thorough, independent and highly professional."
MacKay said the only way to have some accountability in the matter would be for an inquiry to occur, or Norman sues the government, something that Norman has not ruled out. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to continue to pursue parliamentary avenues to have a full airing of the facts in regards to how the matter was managed.