Norman was in his kitchen in April 2017 when his wife Bev, astonished, called out to him. ‘I think the prime minister was just talking about you’
May 18, 2019
Bev Norman was watching television in her home in the east-end Ottawa suburb of Orleans around 5 p.m. when the screen flashed images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
It was April 6, 2017, and the prime minister was taking questions from journalists. One of them was about Bev’s husband, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
Mark Norman was in the kitchen when an astonished Bev called out to him. “I think the prime minister was just talking about you.”
Three months earlier a team of RCMP officers had raided the Normans’ home as part of an investigation into an alleged leak of the Liberal government’s plans to pause a project to procure a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. The federal police force believed Norman had given confidential information to the shipbuilder, Davie, as well as to a CBC journalist in an attempt to prevent the Liberals from scuttling the deal.
The allegations were a working RCMP theory — the raid was part of their ongoing investigation — but when the police briefed Canada’s top soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, he had quickly responded by suspending Norman from his military duties. It would later emerge that Vance had discussed the matter with Trudeau and top advisors in the Prime Minister’s Office including then-principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford.
Mark came into the living room and the couple fumbled with their PVR to retrieve the news clip of Trudeau. “This is an important matter that is obviously under investigation, and will likely end up before the courts, so I won’t make any further comments at this time,” the prime minister said.
For the Normans it was surreal moment, watching the leader of the country talking about an active legal case and predicting — roughly a year before any charge would be laid — that the naval officer was headed for court. Bev became very upset. “How is that fair?” she asked her husband.
Norman jotted down what Trudeau had said, and immediately phoned his lawyer, Marie Henein, to tell her what happened.
Later that evening Henein issued a statement to journalists. Politicians should not be commenting about whether a case would be going to trial, she noted. “I expect what the prime minister meant to say is that he declined to comment further given that the matter is under investigation,” she said.
I think the prime minister was just talking about you
It was Henein, perhaps the highest-profile lawyer in the country, providing Trudeau with a way out if he wanted to take it.
But almost a year later Trudeau was back at it, again predicting at a televised town hall in February 2018 that Norman was headed to trial, though he had still not been charged.
Watching TV coverage of that event, Norman couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The prime minister had not only ignored Henein’s subtle warning but had doubled down.
That Trudeau was once again speaking publicly about the case badly upset Bev, so as the couple watched, Norman kept his thoughts to himself.
But, Norman told Postmedia in an exclusive interview, “I was thinking, ‘I’m screwed.’”
A little more than a month after Trudeau’s second prediction, and over two years after the start of their investigation, the RCMP charged Norman with one count of breach of trust.
On May 8, prosecutors stayed that charge, ending a two-and-a-half-year-long ordeal for Norman and his family. In a press conference held shortly after he left court, Norman said he wants to tell Canadians his story. “Not to lay blame, but to ensure that we all learn from this experience,” he said.
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