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Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s lawyer threatens to call Butts, Wernick to stand

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OTTAWA — Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s lawyer is threatening to call Gerald Butts and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick to testify in open court if they don’t produce a series of documents that she says are essential to defend her client.

Lawyer Marie Henein issued the ultimatum during a brief pre-trial hearing on Wednesday even as Butts, who recently resigned as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top aide, was testifying before a House of Commons committee on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Henein noted that she has been fighting since October for records from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, including with subpoenas last month for Trudeau’s, Butts’s and Wernick’s emails, BlackBerry messages and other communications.

Those records were expected to form part of Henein’s argument later this month, during what’s called an abuse-of-process hearing, that there was no legitimate reason for Norman to be charged in the first place.

But Henein — who has previously accused the Trudeau government of trying to delay Norman’s politically charged trial, which is scheduled to begin in August and run through the fall election — said the timeline for the abuse-of-process hearing is now in jeopardy.

“We will not be in a position to proceed with the March dates,” Henein told Judge Heather Perkins-McVey. “It’s impossible because we just don’t have the documents produced even for Your Honour to review.”

It was at that point that Henein suggested pausing the case until March 18. If the records aren’t ready then, she said, she would ask that Butts, Wernick and senior government officials be called to court.

“If we don’t have this brought to conclusion, I’m going to be seeking subpoenas for Mr. Butts, Mr. Wernick, all these individuals from the (Privy Council Office) … to come before Your Honour and explain precisely what searches have gone on and where these documents are.”

Government lawyer Derek Rasmussen responded by saying the requested documents are ready for Perkins-McVey, who will review the material before deciding whether they should be released to Norman’s legal team.

The judge nevertheless agreed to return the case to the court on March 18.

Norman, who previously served as the military’s second-in-command, was charged last year with breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets to help a Quebec shipyard with the $700-million naval contract.

He has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers have accused him of having been a victim of political games and interference by the Trudeau government.

A second public official charged in connection with the alleged leak of government secrets, federal procurement official Matthew Matchett, indicated through his lawyer on Tuesday that he planned to plead not guilty.

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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As the House rises, which bills made it through — and which ones didn’t

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OTTAWA — The House of Commons has risen for the summer, following a flurry of legislating that rushed numerous significant bills into law before the break. But other potential laws remained mired in the legislative process as of late Thursday, awaiting action in the Senate — or a possible special summer session centred on ratification of the new North American free trade deal.

Some of the high-profile bills that reached final votes after the beginning of last week and now just await royal assent:

Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, a much-debated bill that would ban oil tankers from a portion of the British Columbia coast. Its journey through parliament has been marked by a committee report that recommended it not pass, the defeat of that report and the House’s rejection of some Senate amendments. Following the adjournment of the House and much debate, the Senate chose not to pursue further changes and passed it Thursday evening.

Bill C-93, which will allow expedited pardons for Canadians who were convicted of simple possession of cannabis before legalization came into effect. The bill passed in the Senate Wednesday, without amendment.

Bill C-59, a bill to establish a national-security review agency, create an “intelligence commissioner” to oversee the conduct of Canada’s spy agencies, and clarify the mandate and powers of the Communications Security Establishment (the government cybersecurity agency). The bill was amended by the Senate but several of those changes were rejected by the House, and the Senate voted Tuesday not to insist on its recommendations.

Bills C-91, a bill that will create a commissioner for Indigenous languages and take other steps to save and revitalize those languages. The Senate voted Thursday, after the House had adjourned, to decline to insist on its amendments, finalizing the bill. Bill C-92, clarifying the jurisdiction of Indigenous people over family and child services in their communities, also passed through the Senate Thursday.

Bill C-75, which will “hybridize” a series of offences so that they can now be prosecuted as either indictable or less-serious summary charges, and establish peremptory challenges of jurors. The bill was passed through the Senate with amendments, the House chose not to accept several of those, and the Senate Thursday decided not to insist on the remaining changes.

Bill C-84, a long-awaited bill that expands the definition of bestiality to any sexual contact with an animal. Those convicted of bestiality will now be registered as sex offenders and banned from owning animals. It also widens the definition of animal fighting so that it applies to the construction of any arena for that purpose. It passed without amendment Tuesday.

At the time the House adjourned for the summer Thursday, several bills still required further consideration in the upper chamber, which continued sitting. Among them were several controversial and consequential bills:

Bill C-69, also fiercely criticized by the Conservatives, is the second of the government’s two major environmental bills, and would create a new environmental-impact assessment process for major projects in Canada. The House rejected a majority of the Senate’s amendments. It was due for a vote late Thursday.

Bills C-98, which gives a review commission powers to review the Canada Border Services Agency,  was accelerated through the House Wednesday, when it was read a third time and passed in one swift motion.

Bill C-83, which aims to eliminate the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. The House rejected several key amendments proposed by the Senate, which some have said are needed to make the bill constitutional.

Bill C-262, a law that would ensure federal laws are brought in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But the government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, announced Wednesday he did not see a path forward for the bill in the Senate and that the Trudeau government would campaign on fulfilling the intent of the bill.

Bill C-97, a sprawling budget-implementation bill which includes changes to Canada’s refugee system, support for news journalism, and introduces the Canada Training Credit.

And then there’s the one bill that could affect all the others:

Bill C-100, the government’s bill to ratify the new NAFTA agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico. It has only been introduced and read for the first time in the House of Commons, but might move quickly through Parliament before the election should the United States complete its own ratification of the deal in Congress. If Parliament returns for that bill, the Commons and the Senate could also take up others at the same time.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

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B.C. tanker-ban bill squeaks through final vote in Senate

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OTTAWA — Legislation barring oil tankers from loading at ports on the northern coast of British Columbia slipped over its final hurdle in the Senate Thursday, despite last-minute attempts by Conservative senators to convince their colleagues to kill it.

Bill C-48 is one of two government bills Conservatives in both the House of Commons and the Senate say are kneecapping Alberta’s oil industry by limiting the movement of its oil. It passed the Senate by a vote of 49 to 46.

The tanker ban and Bill C-69, an overhaul of federal environmental assessments of major construction projects, have together become a flashpoint between the Liberals and Conservatives over how Canada can protect the environment without driving investment away from the fossil-fuel sector.

C-69 imposes more requirements for consulting affected Indigenous communities, widens public participation in the review process and requires climate change to be considered when major national resource-exploitation and transportation projects are being evaluated. It applies to a wide range of projects including interprovincial pipelines, highways, mines and power links.

C-69 was set for its final dance in the upper chamber late Thursday evening. The Senate made more than 200 amendments to that bill earlier this month but the government accepted only 99 of them, mostly to do with reducing ministerial discretion to intervene in the review process.

The unelected Senate has generally bowed to the will of the elected House of Commons when there is a dispute between the two parliamentary chambers about legislation.

The bills, both expected to be fodder for Liberals and Conservatives on the campaign trail to this fall’s election, were on a long list of legislation the Senate pounded through as it prepared to rise for the summer.

The House of Commons called it quits earlier Thursday. The House closed after MPs delivered condolence speeches following the death of Conservative MP Mark Warawa, forgoing the rest of the day’s planned activities out of respect for the veteran MP who died of cancer.

Bill C-48 imposes a moratorium on oil tankers north of Vancouver Island, but after the government accepted an amendment from the Senate, it will now undergo a mandatory review in five years.

The Senate committee that reviewed the bill recommended in May the entire Senate vote down the bill in its entirety, but that didn’t happen, leading Conservatives to accuse the Independent senators who make up a majority in the chamber of being Liberals in disguise.

Conservative Sen. Michael MacDonald was one of a few from his caucus to make final pleas with his colleagues to not proceed with the bill.

He said it “will be devastating for the Alberta and Saskatchewan economies.”

However several Independent senators rose to speak in favour of the bill, including Yukon Independent Sen. Pat Duncan.

“I believe we should be doing it,” said Duncan.

Ontario Sen. Donna Dasko, who was on the committee that studied the bill in the Senate, said she thinks “it is quite a good bill.”

“This bill does not actually ban tankers from the Hecate Strait; it simply landlocks Alberta and Saskatchewan oil, and destroys the possibility of economic development in northern Indigenous communities,” said Conservative Sen. Dennis Patterson, a former premier of the Northwest Territories, after the Senate passed it.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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