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EDITORIAL: Justice and politics don’t mix

Vice Admiral Mark Norman arrives at court in Ottawa on April 16, 2019.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman arrives at court in Ottawa, April 16, 2019. — Matthew McGregor/National Defence/File photo

The Vice-Admiral Mark Norman case will not have its day in court, which is a fabulous thing for Norman.

But it means the rest of us have been, at this point, denied an explanation for why one of Canada’s most senior officers was charged in the first place.

Last week, the prosecution abruptly stayed a charge of breach of trust against Norman, saying it no longer believed it had a reasonable expectation that Norman could be convicted.

The allegation was that Norman had leaked confidential information to a journalist and to executives at the Davie Shipyard about the federal government’s efforts to lease a supply ship for the Canadian Navy. After Norman was charged, at least three former federal Conservative cabinet ministers gave the defence information about how they had involved Norman in the process to find a suitable vessel for the $668-million contract.

Investigators for the prosecution had not spoken to the three former ministers before the charges were laid — and it’s believed that the information the former ministers supplied was crucial in ending the case.

This latest mess can’t be satisfied by a simple “nothing to see here, folks,” and a near-constant absence from question period by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

What’s almost funny about the case is that it was based on leaked information and Ottawa — a city where leaking information is a strategic process that pretty much every party uses.

But while the court portion of the process is over — with the federal government picking up Norman’s legal costs and Norman heading back to a command job with the Canadian military — the story can’t end there.

At this point, the Liberal government can’t continue its mantra of “this is still before the courts so we can’t talk about it.”

It’s very much time to talk about it.

What evidence did prosecutors have in the first place, and what evidence did they not have — evidence that led to the charge being halted?

We’re already knee-deep in another scandal involving Canada’s justice system — whether or not the Trudeau Liberals tried to intervene in the prosecution of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin to have prosecutors offer the company a simpler way out of bribery charges.

In other words, there’s already troubling information in the public arena that politics has found its way into Canada’s justice system.

Both the prosecution and the defence in the Norman affair have said they don’t believe that there was political interference in the case.

But the details that have come out in the case, and the backdrop of SNC-Lavalin suggest a much more detailed and public review is necessary.

This latest mess can’t be satisfied by a simple “nothing to see here, folks,” and a near-constant absence from question period by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In case everyone has forgotten, before the SNC-Lavalin issue exploded, we were also told it was just a tempest in a Liberal teapot.

It wasn’t.

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