Cabinet documents to be submitted to judge in Norman case to determine

first_imgOTTAWA – The federal government has agreed to give a judge the chance to review thousands of documents including cabinet secrets to decide which ones are relevant to the politically charged case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.The Liberals have been accused of withholding secret documents in the case against one of the military’s most senior leaders whose criminal trial is expected to run through next year’s election.On Friday morning, a federal lawyer told an Ottawa courtroom the government intends to provide the documents — approximately 135,000 files — in short order.“We’re taking all steps to get all the documents located,” said Justice Canada general counsel Robert MacKinnon, noting the files come in various formats from various departments.“It is a complex process.”MacKinnon said the government was not waiving its privilege over the files even though it was handing them over to the court.One of Norman’s lawyers, Christine Mainville, argued the government’s position still appears to be that the documents should be kept secret from the defence team.“They will argue they should not be disclosed,” she told court. “They are just choosing a different procedure to not provide any documents.”Mainville said Norman’s team was surprised when the government notified them late Thursday afternoon of the change of heart. Mainville chalked up the new approach as a response to “various external pressures” that have little to do with Norman’s right to a fair trial — but did not specify what she meant.The military suspended Norman in January 2017 and he was charged earlier this year with one count of breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets, known as “cabinet confidences,” to a Quebec shipyard.He has denied any wrongdoing.Norman will still be dragged through a very lengthy and costly process, Mainville said.“I just want to make clear for the record that Vice-Admiral Norman is not further ahead today,” she said.Irving Shipbuilding is seeking standing in the case, Mainville added, suggesting the company wants to assert its privacy interests.The Crown and defence are expected to be back before the trial judge for preliminary matters on Nov. 23.The demand for more information has become a preoccupation for the Official Opposition, who have called on the government to hand over secret cabinet documents.The Conservatives are also questioning Treasury Board President Scott Brison’s role in the affair, suggesting he acted inappropriately when he intervened in the shipbuilding project at the heart of the court case against Norman.Brison has defended his push in November 2015 to pause the plan to pay Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding $668 million to convert a civilian ship into a new resupply vessel for the navy, noting he wanted to ensure value for taxpayers.—with files from Lee Berthiaume—Follow @kkirkup on Twitterlast_img

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