The Canadian military has acknowledged unleashing a propaganda op against its own citizens without government approval, insisting the Covid-19 pandemic presented both an unprecedented opportunity and a crisis to be averted.
The Canadian Joint Operations Command saw the Covid-19 pandemic as a “unique opportunity” to deploy tactics previously only used in foreign wars domestically, according to a report released by the Canadian Forces on Monday. The psychological operation, devised during the Covid-19 pandemic by CJOC head Lt.Gen. Mike Rouleau, was never authorized by the federal government, as Rouleau and his fellow commanders apparently believed they did not need such approval to proceed with the plan.
The National Post learned of the details of the domestic psy-op via the Access to Information law, recently obtaining a copy of the December report compiled by retired Maj.Gen. Daniel Gosselin, who was tasked with investigating the scheme. Launched on April 8, 2020, it was hastily wound down a little less than a month later on May 2 when a shutdown order from the Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Jon Vance took effect.
While the military acknowledged that “information operations and targeting policies and doctrines are aimed at adversaries and have a limited application in a domestic concept,” that didn’t stop those in charge from developing and implementing the propaganda scheme. The operation involved “shaping” and “exploiting” information, supposedly due to the need to avoid “civil disobedience” during the pandemic and to ensure the information field was wide open for government messaging on the subject.
Chief of Staff for CJOC Rear Adm. Brian Santarpia described it as “a learning opportunity for all of us and a chance to start getting information operations into our (CAF-DND [Canadian Armed Forces – Department of National Defense]) routine,” describing the response to the pandemic as “an opportunity to monitor and collect public information in order to enhance awareness for better command decision-making.”
Via a separate initiative, the Canadian Forces also sought to glean information from “public social media accounts” in Ontario, including data on “peaceful” Black Lives Matter gatherings and leaders, the Post found. Senior military officers claimed the data was required for the success of ‘Operation Laser’, a project aimed at “helping out” in long-term care homes affected by Covid-19 and vaccine distribution efforts in the north of the country. However, the Post’s coverage of the report didn’t elaborate on how exactly BLM participants’ personal data might affect Canada’s vaccine distribution, and BLM organizers themselves pointed out that they hadn’t held any gatherings outside or near care homes.
After a series of advisers came forward to question the legality of the CJOC propaganda project, defense chief Vance shut it down and tasked Gosselin with looking into how it had been allowed to proceed in the first place without federal approval. His report found CJOC had a “palpable dismissive attitude” toward advice and concerns from other military leaders and recommended a “comprehensive review” of the information operations policies and directives throughout the Canadian Forces, especially concerning domestic matters.
While the report suggests the CJOC’s activities represented an anomaly for the Canadian military, the US, the UK and other Five Eyes countries have similarly engaged in extensive, complex domestic propaganda campaigns during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ironically, the heavy-handed messaging deployed by the Canadian government may have played a role in the rising tide of civil disobedience currently underway across the country. PM Justin Trudeau’s reliance on ‘globalist’ buzzwords and phrases like ‘Build Back Better’ as well as the government’s construction of ominous detention facilities have fueled dark speculation about the administration’s plans.
In November, the Ottawa Citizen uncovered documents indicating the Canadian Armed Forces had actually drawn up plans for an entire military unit that would deploy “propaganda and other techniques to influence attitudes, beliefs and behaviors,” to be called the Defense Strategic Communication Group. The division would supposedly advance “national interests by using defense activities” to create behavioral change at home as well as abroad. It appears to be an outgrowth of Canadian soldiers’ training in the psychological tactics of infamous Facebook “election-hackers” Cambridge Analytica’s parent company the SCL Group.
What seems to have been an aborted domestic propaganda effort in October involved the delivery of a hoax letter to residents of Nova Scotia warning of free-roaming packs of wolves in the province. Supposedly part of a military training exercise, the scheme involved setting up loudspeakers to broadcast actual wolf howls in remote areas of the province, while other troops practiced setting up loudspeakers for the specific purpose of broadcasting propaganda in war zones.
Canada’s domestic propaganda initiatives have gotten out of control, a message signed by Acting Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and DND Deputy Minister Jody Thomas admitted in June, noting that “errors conducted during domestic operations and training, and sometimes insular mindsets at various echelons, have eroded public confidence in the institution.” The note specifically cited “the unsanctioned production of reports that appeared to be aimed at monitoring the activities of Canadians.”
However, despite the questionable legality of so much of its domestic military activity, no public affairs officials have been disciplined over any transgressions, according to the Post.
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