Conservative senators plan to press again for details of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman's settlement

Conservative senators will push for a closer look at the financial settlement given to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman when they return to Parliament later this fall, said Quebec Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais.

'How much did we pay for this gentleman's agreement?' - Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman walks with his lawyers Marie Henein (right) and Christine Mainville as they leave court in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Conservative senators will push for a closer look at the financial settlement paid to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman when they return to Parliament later this fall, said Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais.

The Conservative senator from Quebec was at the forefront last spring of an attempt to get the Upper Chamber to investigate the failed prosecution of the military's former second-in-command.

In a recent interview with CBC News, Dagenais said that he intends to make the payment his first question to the Liberal government's Senate representative.

"It's a very simple question," he said. "It's in the interest of Canadians. You pay taxes. I pay taxes. How much did we pay for this gentleman's agreement?"

Dagenais has long complained about the secrecy surrounding the settlement and wrote directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the case last July.

Norman, a career naval officer, was accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to a $668-million shipbuilding deal. The Crown stayed the charge in May after his defence team presented new evidence, including statements from witnesses the RCMP had never interviewed.

If we paid $10 million for Omar Khadr, how much did we pay for Vice Admiral Norman?- Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais

At the end of June, the Department of National Defence announced that federal lawyers had arrived at a settlement with Norman, which would include his retirement.

The mediation discussions, said a department statement at the time, were overseen by a former Ontario Court of Appeal justice and resulted in an agreement, "the details of which will remain confidential."

The deal averted a possible lawsuit against the federal government by Norman — who, following the end of his criminal case, said that he had a story to tell.

The settlement apparently contains an non-disclosure agreement but the Department of National Defence has so far refused to confirm or deny its existence.

Dagenais said such a response fails even the most basic test of political accountability.

"That's public money," he said. "If we paid $10 million for Omar Khadr, how much did we pay for Vice Admiral Norman?

"That's it. That's all. That's my first question for [Government representative] Sen. [Peter] Harder when we go back to the Senate."

Media commentators and Conservatives in the House of Commons have often linked Norman's treatment to the Liberal government's handling of the case of Omar Khadr; the former child soldier was paid $10.5 million by Ottawa to resolve his civil suit over allegations of mistreatment and breaches of his charter rights.

The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly last spring to apologize to Norman, but Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were not present for the vote.

Omar Khadr received a $10.5 million federal settlement to resolve his claims of mistreatment and breaches of his charter rights. (CBC)

British Columbia Tory MP Mark Strahl was rebuked by the Speaker of the House after he criticized the prime minister by pointing out that Khadr had received a government apology, but not Norman.

The amount of Norman's settlement likely won't remain a secret forever.

The federal government is obliged to acknowledge such costs in public accounts records, but the figures for the current budget year are not due to be published until the late summer or early fall of next year.

In the meantime, the government refuses to discuss the settlement.

A spokeswoman for the defence minister's office, Renee Filliatrault, would only say that the agreement was the result of "discussions held in good faith" and the details "must remain confidential."

Both Norman's defence team and the Conservatives accused the Liberal government of carrying out a politically-motivated prosecution against Norman.

Filiatrault pointed to comments by the director of public prosecutions, who said at the time the single charge of breach of trust against Norman was dropped, that "no other factors" were considered in the decision and there was no "contact or influence from outside the [Public Prosecution Service of Canada], including political influence in either the initial decision to prosecute Mr. Norman — or in the decision to stay the charge."

Norman retired from the navy during the summer.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.