A handful of protesters and former colleagues of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman gathered outside an Ottawa court to support him Wednesday as lawyers hashed out procedural matters for his trial on a single charge of breach of trust.
The military’s second-in-command has been accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to the federal government’s $668 million contract to lease a supply ship for the navy.
There will be more pretrial arguments on July 10.
The case is not likely to come to trial until next year.
Retired naval captain Ian Paterson — who served with Norman in the navy before going to work for Federal Fleet Services, the company at the centre of the controversy — showed up for the hearing and said he’s astonished at how the case has unfolded.
“I don’t know how this benefits the navy,” he said.
A small group of protesters stood outside the courthouse carrying a professionally-made banner that read: “Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Incorruptible. Canada stands with you.”
One of the protesters, Brandon Wallingford — who described himself as a Conservative Party supporter — said he believes Norman is either being persecuted or is a whistleblower.
The RCMP are accusing Norman of leaking the Liberal cabinet’s decision in November 2015 to put the supply contract on hold for a review.
They alleged the confidential information was passed to Federal Fleet Services, which operates out of the Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que., and then on to Ottawa lobbyists before ending up in the media.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison told investigators the leak of the cabinet committee’s hesitation prevented the federal government from conducting a proper review.
The government eventually relented and allowed the project to go ahead.
If Norman “did release the information, it exposed the questionable practices of the government,” said Wallingford.
A number of prominent Conservatives have gotten behind Norman’s legal defence fund after the federal government turned down his request for legal funding.
The donors include former defence minister Jason Kenney, who was in charge when the preliminary contract for the leased supply ship was signed just before the last federal election.
Ian Brodie, ex-chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper, also contributed to the fund, which was set up by a retired army colonel and has a goal $200,000.
As of Wednesday morning, over $125,000 had been raised.