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‘Subterfuge and deceit’: What the Crown’s case against Mark Norman says — and what it has to prove

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« FFS keep me out of this. » If you’re in politics or news media in Ottawa, you’ve seen that well-worn, profane phrase pop up in your in-box from time to time.

The Crown put those words — culled from an email allegedly written by the former head of the navy in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2015 to now-former CBC journalist James Cudmore — in bold type as it laid down the foundation of its criminal breach-of-trust case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman in documents released late this week.

It was — in the estimation of prosecutors Barbara Mercier, Mark Coven and Jeannine Plamondon — a recognition by Norman that he was in « in the wrong. »

What he allegedly did wrong, according to the court filing released Friday, was provide information about a Liberal cabinet decision to halt a $668 million leased supply ship contract for the navy to both the shipyard involved and the media.

Significantly, the Crown’s court brief — which contains extracts of emails and text conversations seized by the RCMP in the course of their investigation — expands the scope of the claims against Norman to include allegations that he breached cabinet secrecy on 12 separate occasions.

None of the information contained in the 76 page filing has been tested in court, nor have any of the documents cited been entered into evidence.

Norman, the former vice chief of the defence staff, is charged with one count of breach of trust.

‘Repeated, continuous, covert leaking’

« Mr. Norman knowingly and deliberately leaked this information. In various communications, he acknowledged this information was privileged and confidential, » said the filing, the latest legal salvo in this high-stakes political drama.

« Moreover, the content of his communications demonstrates that he knew the use to which the leaked information would be put by Davie, Davie lobbyists and the media. »

The Crown alleges Norman leaked information — including behind-the-scenes details related to the supply ship program and the cabinet discussions about it — to an executive at the Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que., using his personal Gmail account.

The leaks, according to court records, started on Oct. 3, 2014 and continued into November 2015, when the future of the project was hanging in the balance.

That timeline covers a much longer period than the original allegation did, and includes months before and after the former Conservative government signed a letter of intent with the shipyard to lease the badly-needed vessel.

The newly-elected Liberal cabinet moved on Nov. 19, 2015 to put the project on hold, but word leaked to the media and Cudmore broke the story. The decision was reversed days later after a political controversy erupted. Furious, the government ordered an RCMP investigation after an internal probe failed to pinpoint the leak.

The Crown submission quotes from emails Norman allegedly wrote and claims he was the primary source of Cudmore’s story.

« This case will come down to to one issue: whether Mark Norman’s repeated, continuous, covert leaking of confidential information to Davie and the media was done with criminal intent, » said the court documents.

Nasty and personal

« We say it was because, by his own words and by ready inference, his conduct was designed and intended to dishonestly corrupt and oppress the decision-making process of cabinet, the principle of cabinet confidence and the lawful and accountable decision-making process to be followed by civil servants. »

The Crown did not release actual copies of the emails as part of its submission.

But the quotes it shared with the public pull back the curtain on the nasty (and sometimes personal) political and bureaucratic battles that went on over the supply ship contract.

At one point, the documents allege, Norman and Davie executive Spencer Fraser conspired to discredit the head defence procurement official, retired rear-admiral Pat Finn, who opposed the lease plan.

Another email allegedly quotes Norman taking a profane swipe at former chief of the defence staff and retired general Tom Lawson, who apparently did not support the project either.

Dave Perry, a procurement expert at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said that if anything, the emails reveal senior levels of the federal government are like workplaces everywhere — where frustration with the boss is « not necessarily PG material. »

He said we are only getting snippets of conversations in the court filing — not enough to evaluate the strength of the Crown’s case.

« I would reserve judgment on the overall intent [of Vice Admiral Norman] until I see what’s actually behind this, » Perry said.

A high bar to hit

The legal bar that the Crown will have to meet in order to prove a breach of trust has been set fairly high by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2006, justices on the high court said prosecutors must prove not only criminal intent but also personal benefit to the accused.

Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, a military and access-to-information law expert, said evidence meeting that standard was not spelled out very clearly in the Crown’s court filing, but may become evident in next year’s trial.

Proving that Norman had something « personal and material » to gain is « absolutely crucial, » he said.

Prosecutors said many of the issues touched on in earlier court filings — such as the claims of political interference raised by Norman’s defence team, headed by Toronto lawyer Marie Henein — are irrelevant.

The Court « should not wade into the realm of politics to second-guess the decisions of ministers, cabinet or government on non-legal issues, » the Crown’s submission said.

There are well-established mechanisms for officials who disagree with cabinet decisions, and the Crown submission even suggests at one point that Norman could have become an official whistleblower within the system.

‘Subterfuge and deceit’

« The defence’s position that Mr. Norman’s conduct in secretly releasing confidential information could somehow be excused because he felt civil servants were not doing what he thought was in Canada’s best interest, or what individual ministers wanted them to do, is remarkable to say the least, » the submission said.

« This Court could never countenance an irresponsible, unlawful approach to dispute resolution that would see a senior member of the military ignore his lawful duties and instead embark on an agenda of subterfuge and deceit. »

Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Erin O’Toole said he was surprised to see the scope of the Crown’s case open up to include the former government.

And that, he said, makes the release of the government documents sought by Norman’s lawyers even more important.

« I was intimately aware of a decision with respect to an interim [supply ship] and saw zero influence on the process by Mark Norman, » O’Toole said. « I would be happy to waive and be involved in waving cabinet confidence in relation to the Conservative cabinet’s decision. And I know former prime minister Stephen Harper would be as well. »



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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