Vice-Admiral Mark Norman – suspended over allegations of leaking top-secret information – has retained famed Toronto criminal lawyer Marie Henein to represent him, even though he has not been charged with any crime.
Ms. Henein, who has a reputation as a tough and relentless defence lawyer, issued a statement Thursday lauding Vice-Adm. Norman as a naval officer with a " lifelong commitment to this country" and denying he had done anything illegal.
She suggested that her client is the victim of internecine warfare with the Department of National Defence.
"Vice-Admiral Norman looks forward to being cleared and unequivocally denies any wrongdoing," Ms. Henein wrote. "It would be a profound disservice to us all if a national hero and widely respected Canadian who has served under numerous governments was caught in the bureaucratic crossfire. It is our sincerest hope that an objective investigation is concluded quickly."
Ms. Henein did not provide any details on the nature of the investigation involving her client but reiterated Mr. Norman's commitment to Canada.
"He has at all times served his country honourably and with the sole objective of advancing the national interest and the protection of Canada," said Ms. Henein, who successfully defended former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual-assault charges.
General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, removed the vice-admiral temporarily from his duties as the Canadian military's second-most senior officer on Jan. 16 after an investigation of allegations that "pretty high-level secret documents" were leaked.
Canada assured the United States and other allies that the leaks did not involve national security but dealt with military procurement, according to sources, who said the Mounties had been investigating the case for months. The involvement of the RCMP means the allegations involve the Criminal Code.
"I had to do it," Gen. Vance told reporters last Friday. "But to have him leave was a bad day for me; a bad day for all of us, but sometimes, the right thing to do hurts. In this case, it was the right thing to do."
Canadian military administrative law says that removal from command reflects a general loss of confidence in a person's ability to exercise command effectively as a result of professional or off-duty misconduct, unsatisfactory performance related to serious errors in judgment or a trend of errors with significant impact.
Vice-Adm. Norman was deeply involved in the strategy to refit the Royal Canadian Navy with $35-billion of new warships during the three years he served as naval commander before becoming the vice-chief of defence staff in August.
The Liberal government officially launched a competition to choose a design in October for navy destroyers and frigates. The winner is expected to be selected later this year and construction to begin in Halifax in the early 2020s.
The government had gone to great lengths to insulate the warship project from court challenges through extensive industry consultations and hiring an independent fairness monitor.
Vice-Adm. Norman has served in the Forces for 36 years. As a high-level officer of the military, he would be prohibited under the Security of Information Act and under a number of laws, as well as the Queen's Regulations and Orders, the military's governing documents, from disclosing without permission classified documents, confidential reports, correspondence or deliberations to unauthorized people, including news agencies.
In late 2015, Vice-Adm. Norman went public with his concerns that Canadians had not been given accurate information about the growing price of planned new warships. He told CBC-TV in December, 2015, that it could cost $30-billion – twice as much as budgeted. His warning left open the possibility that Canada could have to buy fewer or less-capable ships unless Ottawa allocated more money for them.