It will be next summer before Vice-Admiral Mark Norman goes to trial on a single charge of breach of trust — putting a politically-charged corruption case right in the middle of the next federal election campaign.
A trial date of Aug. 19, 2019 was set as the military’s former second-on-command elected Tuesday to be tried in provincial court, a hearing that is expected to take seven weeks.
His lawyer, Marie Henein, denied she wanted the case heard during a politically sensitive time and said the long run-up is needed because of a fight with the government over disclosure of documents.
She said she has asked the Crown to waive cabinet secrecy on all documents related to the case — a request to which the government has not responded.
“It’s quite an extraordinary prosecution where, really, the complainants decide what we get to look at, what’s important and what’s not,” she said following Tuesday’s court appearance.
“We’ve asked for a full waiver of cabinet confidence so that we can defend this case, so that we can see the full story, and that waiver is still not forthcoming.”
Henein also served notice in court Tuesday that she will be bring forward a motion early next year to have the charges against Norman stayed.
The clock is ticking. The Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision requires that an accused face trial in a provincial court within 18 months of being charged.
The judge hearing the Norman case on Tuesday asked Henein if she would be flexible about the deadline. Henein said she was not prepared to waive anything as long as issues of disclosure by the Crown remain in play.
Norman was charged last spring after the RCMP accused him of leaking cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipyard in relation to a contract to lease a supply ship to the navy.
The charges relate to his time as commander of the navy. He was, at the time of being charged, the vice chief of the defence staff.
Norman was removed from the post this summer, but remains suspended with pay. His job is now being filled by the former commander of the Canadian Army, Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk.
On Tuesday, Norman thanked his supporters, some of whom sat through the court proceedings.
“This has been a really difficult time and it’s going to continue to be a real challenge and I just want everybody to know how much that support means to me,” he said.
A Go-Fund-Me page has been set up to defray his legal costs, which the federal government has refused to pay. It has a set goal of $200,000, of which $140,450 had been raised by Tuesday.
In the past few months, the Crown and defence have argued various pretrial matters, including the issues of disclosure of evidence.