Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is one of only three individuals over the past two years whose request to the Defence Department for financial help with legal bills was rejected.The Conservative party has been pushing the military to cover Norman’s mounting legal costs as the case against the senior naval officer drags into its second year.The department received requests from 41 military officers and public servants over the past two years to cover their legal bills and is doing so for 38.The figures were provided by the DND to Postmedia but the details of the individual cases were not released because of the federal privacy law.Taxpayers, however, will be financing the legal bills of some of DND staff who will be testifying at Norman’s upcoming trial, department sources confirmed.Federal employees can apply to have their legal costs covered under a special program for public servants facing legal issues arising from the course of their employment with government. “The Treasury Board Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification is engaged when Crown servants are subject to legal claims or actions in circumstances where they are acting in good faith, and within the scope of their duties or employment,” said DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier. In 2017, then-deputy minister John Forster received 19 requests and denied three, Le Bouthillier said. The current deputy minister, Jody Thomas, has approved all six requests she has received.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.Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance suspended Norman from his job in January 2017 after the RCMP alleged he tipped off Davie Shipbuilding that the Liberal government was considering delaying a key navy program in which the Quebec firm would convert a commercial ship into a naval supply vessel. Details about the government’s decision were also leaked to journalists, and the resulting embarrassment, along with the financial penalties that would have been imposed, forced the Trudeau government to back down on its plans.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman arrives at the courthouse in Ottawa on Jan. 29, 2019.
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Conservative MP Leona Alleslev asked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan at the Commons defence committee Feb. 29 about whether he would grant approval for Norman’s legal fees to be covered under the federal program. Sajjan refused to answer, claiming that Norman’s case was before the courts.But Alleslev countered that her question about whether Norman’s legal bills would be covered had nothing to do with the officer’s criminal trial or the pre-trial hearings that have been underway.Norman’s trial is expected to start in August but the officer’s legal team are back in court later this week as they continue to try to get government records they believe could help in the vice-admiral’s defence.Federal officials have delayed releasing many of the files despite a court order to do so. For instance, Norman’s legal team is still trying to get some of the transcripts of interviews the RCMP conducted with government officials in the fall of 2016.Officials with the Justice Department and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada have declined to release figures on how much the Norman prosecution has cost taxpayers.Lawyers observing the case have told Postmedia they estimate the cost at this point for the prosecution to be between $10 million and $15 million.Norman has two main lawyers but his legal costs are not known. Sources, however, say the significant delays in getting basic documents for his defence is pushing his family into bankruptcy.A GoFundMe page has been set up by retired Canadian Army officer Lee Hammond to help finance Norman’s legal costs. Hammond had originally set his fundraising goal at $50,000 but has now increased that to $500,000 to cover the increasing legal costs.• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: davidpugliese