thumb-2023-06-04-harrison-faulkner-true-north
thumb-2023-06-04-harrison-faulkner-true-north This article is more than 1 year old
Fact-Check

Far-Right Website ‘True North’ is Spreading Deceptive Information About Canadian Wildfires

Conspiratorial video linking wildfires to arson deceptively presents news stories from 2021 and 2022 as if they occurred in 2023

PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization that uncovers and unpacks the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.
Here is why you can trust our journalism ➔
PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization that uncovers and unpacks the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.
Here is why you can trust our journalism.

The False Claim:

The far-right website “True North” claims “the government” and “climate zealots” are hiding the real cause of recent wildfires across Canada — except two key pieces of evidence True North is presenting as smoking guns are from the wrong year.

In a video titled “The truth about the Canadian wildfires,” True North presenter Harrison Faulkner alleges there is a coordinated effort to suppress information about the real cause of the wildfires.

“There’s a far more compelling case to be made about why all these fires are suddenly popping up,” Faulkner confides to viewers.

Faulkner proceeds to walk viewers through news articles, all published by mainstream corporate media outlets, to support his theory of an alleged cover-up of truth that the 2023 Canadian wildfires were “intentionally lit by arsonists.”

“In Alberta, the RCMP have charged one woman with 32 counts of arson after she intentionally started several wildfires in late April,” Faulkner says, citing a Global News article that is actually dated June 4, 2021, not 2023

“Later that month, another Alberta man was charged with 10 counts of arson for doing the exact same thing,” Faulkner added, pointing to a news article that described events that took place in 2022 — again, last year, not 2023.

 

Rating: Harrison Faulkner’s claim that a Global News article describing events that took place in 2021 and a Postmedia article describing events that took place in 2022 support his theory about the true cause of the 2023 Canadian wildfires are false because his evidence is from the wrong year.

 

About the source:

True North is a far-right website run by former Jason Kenney staffer Candice Malcolm that also operates as a registered charity. True North’s board of directors include Malcolm’s spouse, Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian, and William McBeath, a former marketing director of the right-wing Manning Centre think tank.

The site is known for focusing on far-right culture war themes and has regularly featured anti-immigration and anti-2SLGBTQIA+ views, as well as playing a role in promoting the 2022 Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa.

Faulkner is the former president of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Campus Conservatives club, which was disbanded by the university’s student union after Faulkner’s club was expelled from the Ontario PC Youth Association’s network of campus conservative clubs.

During Faulkner’s time as president of the campus conservative club, the group controversially ran campaigns defending residential school architect Edgerton Ryerson and hosted an event in which former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made controversial remarks downplaying the intent behind residential schools.

A 2021 investigation by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network identified a number of ties between Faulkner’s club and white nationalist extremist groups.

 

How it spread:

True North’s deceptive video about the wildfires is spreading both in Canada and internationally, thanks to Facebook and YouTube.

As of June 11, the video has been viewed over 330,000 times on Facebook and an additional 91,000 times on YouTube. While the main audience of the video appears to be domestic, a significant numbers of users sharing the video on Facebook appear to be based outside of Canada.

The video is also being shared in right-wing Facebook groups devoted to US and Canadian politics, as well as groups affiliated with conspiratorial topics.

Facebook

Faulkner’s research appears to draw on content that has circulated in right-wing groups and online spaces since Alberta’s wildfires began in early May.

The 2021 Global News article has been shared several thousand times on Twitter by far-right activists who have used the old news article to suggest the current wave of wildfires were started by a woman in Alberta.

Twitter

 

The reality:

Faulkner’s claims about recent wildfires are contradicted by his own sources.

The first article Faulkner points to as evidence linking recent wildfires to arsonists is an article dated June 4, 2021 that refers to a woman charged with 32 counts of arson two years ago.

In other words, Faulkner has presented a news article about a fire that happened two years ago as a fire that happened last month.

True North (YouTube)

The second article Faulkner points to is dated May 4, 2023, but again, it does not refer to 2023 wildfires, it refers to wildfires that occurred in 2022.

That article refers to a Cold Lake man who was charged in connection to a string of arsons that largely took place in 2022, and involved reports of multiple vehicle and structure fires in rural Alberta, including two residential homes and a rodeo facility.

The only wildfires referenced in the news article occurred in August 2022.

The man was also charged in connection to two April 2023 fires that burned down a church and a post office, however, there are no allegations that includes setting wildfires and the man was in custody before the current wave of wildfires began.

True North (YouTube), Edmonton Journal

Misinformation about the causes of the unprecedented wildfires is being fuelled by far-right political actors, including People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier, who blames the fires on “green terrorists,” and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who validated the same far-right talking point by expressing that she’s “very concerned that there are arsonists.”

That concern contradicts Smith’s own wildfire experts — Alberta’s Ministry of Forestry, Parks and Tourism told the Toronto Star that arson is “not an emerging trend that we’re concerned about right now.”

While the initial spark that causes wildfires may have a range of causes, including natural causes like lightning to human-causes, which can include everything from industrial activity to camping to a discarded cigarette, experts agree that the size, intensity and spread of the current wildfires are being driven by hot and dry conditions, regardless of how they may or may not have started.

“The fires season is also lasting longer now because of climate change. Spring is coming weeks earlier and fall is coming weeks later. More time for the fires and grasslands to burn,” Queen’s University energy and environmental policy professor Edward Struzik recently told CBS News.

 


 

Update: Following publication of this fact-check, True North added a note acknowledging multiple factual errors in its video.

The video itself continues to contain false information claiming the 2023 wildfires were caused by incidents that actually happened in 2021 and 2022. 

 

Our journalism is powered by readers like you.

We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.

Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.

 

Donate
Luke LeBrun
Editor
Luke LeBrun is the Editor of PressProgress. His reporting focuses on the federal political scene, right-wing politics as well as issues in technology, media and culture.

Most Shared

thumb-sources Podcast

Take Back Alberta Leaders are Training ‘Scrutineers’ to Infiltrate Campaigns and Act as ‘Security’ on Voting Day

Related Stories

Fact-Check

Right-Wing Sources are Spreading Misinformation About a Court Battle Over Canada’s Vaccine Mandates

View the post
Fact-Check

‘Canada Proud’ Claims This Photo of an Empty Grocery Store Shows Life Under Justin Trudeau. It Was Actually a Snow Day.

View the post
Fact-Check

Justin Trudeau Falsely Claimed He Is Not Battling First Nations Kids in Court. Court Documents Show He Is.

View the post
Our free email newsletter delivers award-winning journalism directly to your inbox.
Get Canadian Investigative News You Won't Find in Corporate Newspapers.
Our free email newsletter delivers award-winning journalism to your inbox.
Get Canadian Investigative News You Won't Find in Corporate Newspapers.