There are certain crimes that cannot be left to fester. Like if police find a dead body, they need to find out what happened. But there are other crimes, offences and infractions that happen every day, that while wrong are so minor that we don’t make a big deal about them.

Should you litter? Should you jaywalk? Drink a beer while walking down the street (the horror!)?

Not really.

It’s not considered civic-minded and is against the rules. That said, do you want the police to spend their time (and your tax dollars) investigating these sorts of incidents and harassing the otherwise law-abiding citizens who did them?

The charge that Vice Admiral Mark Norman faced – until it was stayed by the prosecution on Wednesday – is so minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things that most Canadians probably don’t even really understand what the original problem was supposed to be in the first place.

Norman was charged with one count of breach of trust related to violating cabinet confidentiality by allegedly disclosing information regarding the shipbuilding procurement process.

It’s a mouthful, but what does it mean? Norman himself said at his Wednesday press conference that military procurement is “a very complicated and obtuse and ultimately ugly process.”

The prosecutor said something similar during her media availability, basically explaining that they had challenges wading through the whole big picture issue in the first place.

The alleged problem, in non-legalese, was that Norman leaked information about the shipbuilding process to the media and it embarrassed the government. And he maintained his innocence throughout.

One of the oddest things about this whole affair in the first place is that leaks – sometimes substantial ones – happen all the time in politics (and especially in Ottawa) and it’s believed that no one has ever in the past been criminally charged for doing so.

The government may not like it, they may not encourage it (well, at least not when it’s something they don’t want out there) and they may show their displeasure – but charge someone?

Norman, the former head of the Navy, could have gone to jail for such a charge. Breach of trust comes with a maximum five year sentence. How is it that the government can’t prosecute returning ISIS fighters but they can prosecute a respected Vice Admiral? Where are their priorities?

And this brings us to the original question, the big question: Why did they charge Mark Norman in the first place?

It’s a discretionary choice, to go back to that example about jaywalking. It didn’t need to be done. But someone chose to do it. And who chose? The prosecution, yes. But how did they even know about something so nitty-gritty in the first place? This normally wouldn’t be on their radar.

Marie Henein, Norman’s star lawyer, reminded the media on Wednesday that the matter was first referred to the RCMP by the Privy Council Office. That’s the top office of bureaucrats that work directly with the Prime Minister to implement his agenda, and was headed up by Michael Wernick throughout most of this saga. It’s like the bureaucratic side of the Prime Minister’s Office.

That’s how all of this happened. Because people who work directly for Trudeau called the cops in on it. And that was wrong.


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