OTTAWA — The decision Wednesday to stay a breach-of-trust charge against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has ended his criminal case but his future in the military is unclear. What’s happened so far:
June 2013: Mark Norman is named commander of the Royal Canadian Navy after 33 years as a reservist and regular-force officer.
July 2015: The Conservative government enters into an agreement with Chantier Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec to lease a converted civilian ship as a temporary naval-supply vessel. The decision is made after asking industry for ideas on filling the gap after the military’s previous two resupply ships were forced into early retirements. But the deal is not final.
Nov. 4: Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are sworn in.
Nov. 20: CBC journalist James Cudmore reports the Liberals have put the $700-million project for a temporary supply ship on hold and includes key details from a cabinet-committee meeting the previous day, when the decision was made.
A few weeks later, the Liberals ask the RCMP to investigate the leak.
Two months after the report, Cudmore leaves the CBC to become a policy adviser for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
Nov. 30: The Liberals approve the supply-ship contract.
January 2016: A federal public servant who attended secret cabinet meetings about the shipbuilding contract tells the RCMP that electoral considerations were front and centre as successive governments approved the project. (The comments come to light in late 2018 when a partial transcript of the RCMP interview is submitted in Norman’s trial.)
August: Norman is appointed vice-chief of the defence staff, the military’s second-in-command.
Jan. 13, 2017: Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, suspends Norman.
Feb. 23: Norman hires high-profile lawyer Marie Henein and issues a statement saying he looks forward to being cleared and that he will return to his post. The statement says it would be a “profound disservice” if Norman “was caught in the bureaucratic crossfire.”
April 6: A heavily censored affidavit, dated Jan. 4 and used in support of a request to search Norman’s home, is released that indicates the RCMP suspect Norman of leaking government documents.
April 26: A fuller version of the affidavit is released. The RCMP allege Norman used his position to provide cabinet confidences to Spencer Fraser, chief executive of a special arm of Chantier Davie, who in turn passed the information to lobbyists and the media with the aim of ensuring final federal approval of the supply-ship project.
The document shows the Liberals decided to pause the project amid intense backroom lobbying by Halifax-based Irving Shipyards, which competes with Davie, to review the deal.
January 2018: The navy accepts the supply ship, called the MV Asterix.
Feb. 1: During a town-hall meeting in Edmonton, Trudeau says the investigation into Norman will “inevitably” lead to “court processes,” even though no charges have been laid.
March 9: The RCMP charge Norman with one count of breach of trust.
June 28: Norman is officially shuffled out as the military’s second-in-command and moved to a placeholding position within the defence chief’s office.
Sept. 4: Henein says the government is withholding secret documents that she needs “so that we can defend this case and so that we can see the full story.” The court schedules Norman’s trial to start on Aug. 19, 2019. The trial is expected to last seven or eight weeks — meaning it would overlap with the federal election campaign.
Oct. 12: Matthew Matchett, a federal procurement officer at Public Services and Procurement Canada, is identified in court filings from Norman’s legal team as another person who shared details of the Davie contract.
Oct. 17: The government suspends Matchett from his job, months after his security clearance was withdrawn in late June 2017.
Dec. 14: Crown attorney Mark Covan argues Norman’s motive, no matter how altruistic, for allegedly leaking government secrets doesn’t matter because releasing confidential information to unduly influence cabinet is illegal. One day earlier, Norman’s lawyers argued he was doing the exact opposite.
Dec. 17: Crown prosecutors push back against suggestions of political interference in Norman’s case.
Jan. 29, 2019: Court hears the codenames used internally to refer to Norman, including, “The Boss,” “MN3,” “C34,” and “The Kraken,” allegedly to avoid capturing documents in searches under the access-to-information law.
The court also hears about Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison’s request for standing to make submissions and arguments. Brison’s application says allegations he asked for a review of the shipbuilding deal at “the behest of Irving … are utterly false.” Brison’s legal team adds it was his duty as Treasury Board president at the time to “review the procurement of large defence contracts.”
Jan. 30: Vance takes the stand in the pre-trial hearing. He insists there is nothing sinister about using terms other than names or proper titles to refer to military personnel, noting it is commonplace in internal communications and documents. However, he says using them to try to bury communications would be very serious.
Feb. 10: Brison resigns his seat in the House of Commons. When he made his intention public in early January, he said the Norman case had nothing to do with his exit.
Feb. 11: Norman’s legal team raises questions about the independence of federal prosecutors over news that Crown lawyers met with the Privy Council Office months earlier, saying the discussions are “more concerning” than allegations the Prime Minister’s Office tried to intervene in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.
Feb. 12: The Public Prosecution Service of Canada says in a statement that it never sought or received instructions from the government over Norman’s case.
Feb. 13: The RCMP charge Matchett with one count of breach of trust.
Feb. 21: Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, tells the Commons justice committee that he decided in October to let the judge in Norman’s case decide what government documents can be released as evidence.
March 5: A lawyer for Matchett says his client plans to plead not guilty and seek a jury trial.
March 28: Henein reveals the existence of a 60-page memo about the Norman case that Wernick sent to Trudeau in October. The next day, the Justice Department defends its refusal to disclose the memo’s contents, saying it is subject to solicitor-client privilege.
May 3: CTV News reports Liberal MP Andrew Leslie has informed the government he will testify for Norman if he’s called as a witness at trial.
May 8: Federal prosecutors stay the breach-of-trust charge, citing new evidence from Norman’s defence team that led prosecutors to believe there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.
Sajjan says the government will cover Norman’s legal fees.
At a press conference, Norman says he is ready to go back to work. He says he also plans to tell his story in the coming days, not to lay blame, but to prevent a similar situation from recurring.
The Canadian Press