In The Media

Top Canadian military commander Mark Norman relieved of post

by Bruce Campion-Smith (feat. David Perry)

The Star
January 16, 2017

OTTAWA—In a stunning move, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the second-in-command of Canada’s military, has been relieved of his duties and the top general is refusing to say why.

In a notice dated Jan. 13, Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, revealed that Norman would no longer be acting as the vice-chief.

“Effective immediately and until further notice, Vice-Admiral M.A.G. Norman will not exercise the powers, duties and functions, including command of the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS),” Vance said in the notice.

Military experts struggled to comprehend the reason for such a dramatic personnel move that has probably cut short the career of a respected senior officer in line to be the next top general.

Nor could they recall a time when someone of Norman’s rank had been abruptly bounced from their post.

“I was totally shocked . . . it’s pretty unprecedented,” said Dave Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

One former officer called it extraordinary. “It’s never, never seen.

“It’s going to send shock waves through the organization,” said the retired officer, who spoke on background because of his ongoing ties to the department.

Yet Vance’s office threw a cloak of secrecy over the move, refusing to provide any more details about why Norman — once praised by Vance as an “officer and a leader” — had been removed from the vice-chief of defence staff position he assumed just six months ago.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office also refused to shed any light on the unprecedented action, saying only that the minister supported Vance’s decision.

Lt.-Col. Jason Proulx, a military spokesperson, said Monday that Vance had “temporarily relieved” Norman from the “performance of military duty” though he declined to provide any further explanation.

“For the time being, he will not be carrying out the functions” of vice-chief of defence staff, Proulx said in an email.

He declined to say whether Norman would still collect his salary.

Military police said they were not investigating Norman.

“We haven’t investigated him at all . . . . We’re not investigating,” said Maj. Jean-Marc Mercier, a spokesperson for the military police group, adding that they learned about Norman’s fate Monday morning, like everyone else.

However, one military expert said that because Norman had responsibility for the military police group, it’s likely that Vance would have turned to an outside agency to conduct any investigation. Proulx refused to say whether Norman’s removal was the result of an investigation into his conduct.

In the absence of an official explanation, speculation raged about what Norman could have done to warrant such a move, even in the corridors of defence headquarters where many were in the dark.

The Globe and Mail reported Monday that Norman had been relieved of his duties because of alleged leaks of classified information. The defence department refused to comment on that report.

The vice-chief of defence staff oversees much of the administrative work, manages resources, and supervises major capital projects, prompting Vance to joke last summer that the vice-chief “attends more meetings than anybody else, later and longer hours than anybody else.”

“In other words, he does much, if not most of the heavy lifting that keeps defence running,” Vance said.

The vice-chief post also has a hand in the procurement process and its multibillion-dollar capital projects for everything from new fighter jets to a fleet of warships.

Norman joined the navy in 1980, worked his way through the ranks, commanded a frigate, then oversaw the navy’s Atlantic fleet before being named head of the navy in 2013.

Just last August, Vance sang Norman’s praises during the change of command ceremony when the navy veteran took over the number two position.

“Mark, you are an officer and a leader made for this moment,” Vance told the assembled crowd in an Ottawa armoury.

Norman, Vance said, was “loyal and tireless.”

“You’re the one for the job, Mark. Thank you for accepting the appointment. Thank you in advance on behalf of all of us for the amazing amount of work and quality of work,” he said.

Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, currently the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, has been appointed as the interim vice-chief of defence staff.

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