Vice Admiral Mark Norman arrives to the Ottawa Courthouse in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Defence chief Vance slated to testify this month in Vice-Admiral Norman case

OTTAWA — Canada’s top military officer is expected to take the stand later this month in a pre-trial hearing for Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

Norman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, said Gen. Jonathan Vance was subpoenaed by Norman’s legal team and is scheduled to testify when the hearing resumes at the end of January.

Suspended in January 2017 as the military’s second-in-command, Norman was charged last March with one count of breach of trust in connection with the alleged leak of cabinet secrets around a $700-million shipbuilding contract.

He has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charge. His politically charged trial is scheduled to start in August and run through this year’s federal election.

The court heard five days of arguments last month, during which Norman’s lawyers accused the government of hiding key documents, preventing access to witnesses and cherry-picking what information is made public.

Government lawyers denied the allegations.

Another three days have been set aside at the end of the month for the pre-trial.

Vance is expected to be grilled over what instructions he gave to senior military officers — including Norman — with regards to talking with journalists. The allegations against Norman include that he leaked secrets about the shipbuilding deal to the media.

Vance could also face questions over whether military officials intentionally avoided using Norman’s name in internal correspondence, which would have made it more difficult for his lawyers to access certain documents.

Vance refused to comment on the case during a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

The contract, in which a Quebec shipyard was asked to convert a civilian container ship into a support vessel for the navy, was negotiated by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and finalized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015.

Norman’s team wants access to potentially thousands of government documents about the contract, including records held by Trudeau’s office, to prove their client was supporting the Tories in obtaining the ship before falling victim to Liberal political games.

They used witnesses and emails during the first five days of the pre-trial to hammer home their allegations that the government is trying to prevent a fair trial for their client.

Norman’s lawyers also pointed to public comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and correspondence between the Crown and government as suggesting political interference in the case.

One Canadian Forces member told the court that his commanding officer, who is also expected to be called to testify later this month, appeared proud that officials avoided using Norman’s name.

Following the allegation, Vance expressed alarm in an interview with the CBC last month and promised to launch an investigation into whether such a practice was used.

The court also heard that government lawyers had continued to fight the defence over whether some other documents were relevant to the case even after a public servant had flagged them as such.

Crown prosecutors contended there was no evidence of such interference and government lawyers said they are working hard to produce all documents required for the trial.

— Follow ↕leeberthiaume on Twitter

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