Power & Politics

Canada's top soldier says he doesn't regret his actions in the Norman affair

Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance tells Power & Politics that while his decision to suspend Vice Admiral Mark Norman was "personally difficult," he doesn't regret any of the actions that he took.

'I was doing my best with the information that I had' - Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance sits down with CBC News Network's Power & Politics for a wide-ranging interview at CFB Petawawa Aug. 28, 2019. (Sara Brunetti / CBC NEWS)

Canada's top soldier says while he regrets that the whole Mark Norman affair occurred, he has no personal regrets about his decision to suspend the now retired second-in-command over allegations that he had leaked cabinet secrets.

Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance suspended Norman from his job as vice-chief of the defence staff in 2017 after the RCMP raided his home as part of its investigation, but more than a year before the RCMP formally charged him.

"I was doing my best with the information that I had to effectively administer Vice Admiral Norman," said Vance in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics airing this evening.

Vance told host Vassy Kapelos that he had "no regrets other than the macro regret" that the affair happened in the first place.

"I tell you that it was difficult, personally difficult," said Vance. "I don't know of anybody who doesn't wish him well and hope he has a good, long, happy, healthy retirement. And I'm one of them."

Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance says he has no personal regret over his decision to suspend now-retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman over allegations he leaked cabinet secrets. 0:56

Norman had been accused of leaking cabinet secrets to a now-former CBC journalist and an executive at the Davie Shipyard in Quebec relating to a $668-million shipbuilding deal to lease a supply vessel.

In May, the Crown announced it had stayed the single breach-of-trust charge it had laid against Norman after new information surfaced that convinced the prosecution that there was no longer a reasonable chance of conviction.

Vance said Norman was a friend he admired, and that he had been looking forward to working with him to move "the yardsticks significantly" at the top of the armed forces.

"We've managed to move those yardsticks, but you know, I didn't really get to benefit from his service as the vice for very long," said Vance.

After the prosecution dropped its case, Vance issued a statement saying he looked forward to welcoming Norman back to work as soon as possible.

However, Norman reached a settlement with the federal government at the end of June and retired from the military on Aug. 22.

CBC News has reached out to Norman for comment but has not yet received a response.

Vance: We 'mangled' the Afghan memorial ceremony

Vance also was asked about the defence department's initial decision to make the unveiling of an Afghan war memorial a private service attended only by federal officials and senior brass.

"We well and truly mangled it. Not on purpose. Not to deliberately hurt anybody," said Vance.

The closed-door ceremony sparked outrage from families of service members killed in Afghanistan and prompted the Department of National Defence to hold a public re-dedication ceremony on Aug. 17.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance says the decision to hold a private ceremony to dedicate an Afghan war memorial was not made at the political level. 1:09

"This was us trying to take a practical approach, knowing full well that we would have ... something big later," said Vance. "We shouldn't have done it that way. We should have waited and done the big one. I acknowledge that."

When pressed on whether the decision to make the initial ceremony private came from the government, Vance said that suggestion was "absolutely wrong."

"I come here to tell you it's not. It's absolutely not," said Vance. "I think it's fair too that the political level owns a lot of things, but they shouldn't own what is not theirs. This was ours."

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