Serge Cormier - 14:33
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has stood here in the House and indicated that the government handed over all the documents it was asked for. That is patently untrue, and I have proof.
The counsel for Vice-Admiral Norman said, “It took six months to get documents, and as we sit here today, and as we walked out of that courtroom, we still did not have all of them.” She said there were thousands of documents they had not received.
She went on to say, “I want to make it very clear that we, the defence, had to bring this motion, at great expense to Vice-Admiral Norman, to get at those records.” She said only the government had access, and that it was obviously the government that was “standing in the way of that full disclosure”.
Hon. David Lametti - 14:34
Mr. Speaker, all the minister does is bring up even more questions and answers we simply do not have. Perhaps we should go back to what the counsel for Vice-Admiral Norman said at the press conference:
No person in this country should ever walk into a courtroom and feel like they are fighting their elected government.
Vice-Admiral Norman himself said:
There are lots of questions that need to be asked and answered about this whole process. I think some people that have been involved in this need to reflect on what happened and why it happened, and their role in that.
What does the Minister of Justice think about his role in this cover-up?
Hon. David Lametti - 14:35
Bruce Stanton - 17:47
Mr. Chair, I will be using my entire 15 minutes on questions to the minister.
Has the minister brought a proposal to cabinet to give a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin, yes or no?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:52
Mr. Chair, has the minister begun the process to issue a directive under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to override the decision of the director of public prosecutions in this matter?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:52
Mr. Chair, have any of the minister's staff members provided any employee of SNC-Lavalin with assurances that he ensured it would receive a deferred prosecution agreement prior to the election, yes or no?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:52
Mr. Chair, I am asking the minister whether he or a member of his staff or any members of the Prime Minister's Office, now or in the future, have ever told anybody who works with or for SNC-Lavalin that it will get a deferred prosecution agreement eventually, more specifically, before the election?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:53
Mr. Chair, moving on to issues from this afternoon, in question period today the Prime Minister indicated, “We continue to respect the independence of the judiciary. We always will. Measures were brought forward against the vice-admiral at the direction of the chief of the defence staff.”
Could the minister let us know whether the chief of the defence staff ordered the RCMP to lay charges?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:54
Mr. Chair, further to questions regarding the RCMP, today two members of the RCMP indicated that they would “like to get the totality of the information and do a proper analysis.” In other words, they are asking for certain information to be passed to them from the federal prosecution service.
Will the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada discuss this matter with the federal prosecution service?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:54
Mr. Chair, it is more than an article that appears in the newspaper. This is a quote from the RCMP and in it the RCMP is indicating that it wishes to go back and take a look at the information that was levelled with respect to the charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
As a result, I am wondering if the minister can let us know whether he still believes this case is closed, given that the RCMP wants to go back and investigate further.
Hon. David Lametti - 17:55
Mr. Chair, I would like to know from the minister whether he received a section 13 notice prior to the director of public prosecutions and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada staying the charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
Hon. David Lametti - 17:56
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the clarification. I am wondering, though, if the minister can illuminate us. Is he saying that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was not provided a section 13 notice pursuant to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act on the staying of the charges against Mark Norman?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:56
That is actually not the quote, Mr. Chair. What the act actually says is that it is when the case will attract great public interest. I can think of no case that has attracted more public interest, other than SNC-Lavalin, than the case of Mark Norman.
Once again, could the minister tell me whether the director of public prosecutions provided a section 13 notice. I might as well go further to tell him what I am driving at. I would like to know whether cabinet discussed the section 13 notice under the umbrella of the Attorney General of Canada seeking advice from his colleagues.
Hon. David Lametti - 17:57
Mr. Chair, at the end of a press conference with respect to the staying of charges with respect to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, counsel actually said the following, which I would like to read if I may:
There are lots of questions that need to be asked and answered about this whole process the last couple of years. And I think some people who have been involved in this need to reflect on what happened and why it happened and their role in it.
Would the minister agree that it is appropriate for him to order a commission of inquiry within his department pursuant to the Inquiries Act?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:58
Mr. Chair, I am going to argue with the minister on that point. I do not believe the court indicated it was satisfied. In fact, as the minister should know, the actual application was never determined. In fact, the staying of the charge came prior to the judge weighing in on it, but there is much obiter from the judge on her concerns about the documents and how slowly they were coming forward, if they were coming forward at all.
The minister indicated today that the department had turned over all documents that were needed. Will the minister say that once again in the House of Commons now?
Hon. David Lametti - 17:59
Mr. Chair, not quite. On February 22, the defence was in possession of zero documents. Would the minister agree with me on that?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:00
Mr. Chair, is the minister aware that the application for the production of these documents commenced on October 12, 2018?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:01
Mr. Chair, would the minister agree with me that the Crown has a duty of disclosure specifically when it comes to making sure that the defence has everything it needs in order to exculpate itself if it does have the documents in its possession? Does he not agree that this is exactly what the duty of the Crown is in this matter?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:02
Mr. Chair, I have to go back to what the former defence attorney for Vice-Admiral Norman indicated:
No person in this country should ever walk into a courtroom and feel like they are fighting their elected government or any sort of political factors at all.
She also said:
It took months and months and months. It took six months to get documents, and as we sit here today and as we walked out of that courtroom, we still did not have all of them....
The facts are that we were required to bring an application in court that has dragged on for six months to get documents.
How can the minister indicate that he is satisfied with the work of the department in this matter?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:03
Mr. Chair, is the minister aware that on two occasions media, had to go to court in order to lift bans that were asked for and placed on the court with respect to documents, first on April 21, 2017, and second on November 23, 2018?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:04
Mr. Chair, I will point out again that the minister is wrong in this case. In fact, it was the court that indicated that in the latter case, November 23, it was the Crown that decided that it would not release the documents attached to the application of October 12, and it was for no reason. In fact, the judge said that it was an open court.
I wonder if the minister could comment on why it was decided that there would be an attempt to suppress the documents attached to a duly placed motion in the court.
Hon. David Lametti - 18:05
Mr. Chair, on October 12, defence counsel asked for a number of documents to be produced. They received no documents until February 22. During testimony in December 2018, it was brought to the attention that ATIP information was in fact misapplied, meaning that they were not searching for the terms under which the documents were being filed.
Second, a person who was staff to the then Minister of National Defence did not check her personal emails or her secondary personal phone or her BlackBerry device for the documents that were being sought.
Does the minister still believe that the departments did a good job in seeking these documents?
Hon. David Lametti - 18:06
Bruce Stanton - 19:23
Mr. Chair, following up on the excellent questions of my learned colleague, the member for Durham, I wanted to get a bit further into this oral report that the minister received from his department that has allowed him to come to the conclusion that there is nothing to see here and everything went fine.
I would like to take the minister through some specific things that happened in the hearings that have transpired since November 23 of last year. Predominantly, this is about the fact that the documents were being sought so the defence could put together an abuse-of-process motion to have the charge dismissed because, the defence said, there was political interference and obstruction of the subpoena requests for documents.
With respect to the hearing, between December 12 and December 18, it was said that emails between a Crown prosecutor and legal counsel in the Privy Council Office, which is the government department that supports the Prime Minister, showed the Privy Council Office lawyer asking for updates on who had been identified as potential witnesses, what was discussed in judicial pretrial meetings and what the defence planned to argue in pretrial motions. Does this concern the minister with respect to administration of justice in his department?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:25
The issue, Mr. Chair, is not whether the judge was to make the decision. We all know that at the end of the day she did not, because of the amount of delay that the current government allowed for.
What we do know as well from these trial dates and these hearings is that there were even problems with how they gamed the system in terms of the kinds of words that would trigger disclosure of documents.
It was revealed in the trial that access-to-information requests in 2017 returned no results. In the entire Mark Norman case, when meetings were going on day after day and information and surveillance was going on, there were no results in all of the Department of National Defence, and guess why. It was because a witness came forward and asked for protection from his own government so that his name would not be disclosed after he told Canadians that code names were used in order to ensure that there would be no response in the documents.
Why does the minister not think that this is something that needs to be looked into further?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:27
To recap, Mr. Chair, we have now heard that the Crown prosecutor was talking to legal counsel in the Privy Council Office. We have heard that they were asking for updates on who has been identified as potential witnesses. We now know that ATIPs were being deliberately avoided.
Now we move on to another one. Also heard in testimony during that hearing in December was the fact that federal government lawyers, who would be these ministers' lawyers, inappropriately intervened in the defence's access to witnesses and in giving witnesses bad information.
Does the minister think that this is enough of a problem to warrant an investigation?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:28
Mr. Chair, the government's documents collection was atrocious. It was to the point that the minister should know that the chief of the defence staff, although he learned in December that code names were used to avoid the production of documents, did not check in on it until the third week of January. Nobody in that four-week period of time thought to go back and actually do a further search. I think that is something else that needs to be investigated.
As well, as we tuned into hearings between January 29 and February 1, even more information came out, most importantly the fact that one of the lawyers who would be working for this minister, a lawyer in bed with the Department of National Defence, was alleged to have given advice to a former assistant to the Minister of National Defence with respect to what she needed to disclose in her search. She said she had two phones, a government-issued Blackberry and a personal iPhone. However, she took the advice of the Department of National Defence and did not search her personal emails and did not know whether her Blackberry messages were included in the search.
There was not a sufficient search. It was advised by a lawyer from the Department of Justice. Does the minister think that is enough to warrant an inquiry?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:31
Mr. Chair, what is interesting is that there is actually someone within the justice department who gets this, because justice department counsel Robert MacKinnon told the court in those hearings that it does not matter where the government-related business is being handled. Whether it is in personal emails or personal data, they are covered by the subpoena, and he would be following up to make sure that actually happened.
Does the minister agree with that comment made by his own lawyer, and should this be followed up on?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:32
Mr. Chair, I assure members that Vice-Admiral Norman, with his gigantic legal bill, which is now going to be paid by the taxpayers of Canada, does not thank the government for the shoddy work it conducted throughout this entire process, which caused so much pain and so much cost, either because it maliciously wanted to ensure that these documents did not come forward or because it was simply inept. Either of those two reasons means that there should be an inquiry in that department by this minister by his own hand.
I will ask the minister again. Will he be conducting a real inquiry, one that is written on paper, not an oral version, so that Canadians can get to the bottom of exactly what happened in this case?
Hon. David Lametti - 19:33