The Department of National Defence has declined to pay the legal bills for Vice Admiral Mark Norman in his ongoing court case.
But it’s a different story for other government officials, who will find that all their legal bills will be covered by the taxpayer.
The DND will be paying for lawyers for some of those who will be testifying for the Crown at Norman’s trial which is to start in August. Jody Thomas, the department’s deputy minister, has approved the applications to pay the legal fees for six department or Canadian Forces individuals. Sources say some of those are linked to the Norman case.
At the same time Robert Fife and Steve Chase of the Globe and Mail have reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior officials in his office have retained outside legal counsel in case of an RCMP investigation into allegations of political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group.
Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s communications director, told the journalists that Treasury Board rules allow for outside lawyers to be hired at public expense. “As per the Treasury Board Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification, counsel has been retained to advise on the matter in question,” Ahmad confirmed to the Globe, which noted that the rules allow for hiring of outside counsel when government officials are either sued, threatened with a suit, charged with an offence or under threat of being named in a legal action.
But when Vice Admiral Norman applied for the same treatment under the exact same policy the DND turned him down.
The DND rejected Norman’s request for financial assistance in 2017 as it claimed the senior officer was guilty of disclosing confidential information. Government officials reached that stunning conclusion — contained in a Justice Department letter leaked to Postmedia — even though Norman had not been charged at the time and no formal internal investigation was carried out by the Canadian Forces or the DND.
Norman, once the second highest ranking officer in the Canadian military, was charged last year with one count of breach of trust.