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News Brief

Military Admits It Made ‘Errors’ Aiming Propaganda at Canadians and Spying on Black Lives Matter Groups

Canadian military circulated fake letters warning wolves were on the loose in small town Nova Scotia last year

The Canadian military admits senior commanders broke federal rules when they harvested data from ordinary peoples’ social media accounts and ordered the use of propaganda techniques developed in Afghanistan on unsuspecting Canadians.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, an internal investigation found these activities not only violated federal rules, but the military commanders who ordered them had no authority to do so.

What the investigators concluded: According to a June 9 document obtained by the Citizen and signed by acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas:

“Errors conducted during domestic operations and training, and sometimes insular mindsets at various echelons, have eroded public confidence in the institution … This included the conduct of (information operations) on a domestic operation without explicit CDS/DM direction or authority to do so, as well as the unsanctioned production of reports that appeared to be aimed at monitoring the activities of Canadians.”

Military spied on Black Lives Matter groups: Last month, the Citizen obtained documents showing military intelligence officers compiled data on peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer.

One section of the military’s BLM report was titled “Hostile Foreign Actors,” but was completely redacted. The protests were “not caused by (foreign actors) trying to stir up racial strife. It was caused by the very public execution of a number of Black people,” BLM Canada co-founder Sandy Hudson told the Citizen.

The military initially claimed it needed to use data from social media to identify attendees of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in order to “support” troops deployed to long-term care facilities during the pandemic.

Propaganda tactics aimed at Canadian public: Four internal military investigations into the military’s use of propaganda tactics were launched following a series of Citizen stories last year, including one that exposed the military’s plans to establish a propaganda operation designed to influence the “attitudes, beliefs and behaviours” of Canadians.

The plan followed the Canadian Forces spending $1 million on training its public affairs officers to use behavioural modification methods similar to those employed by the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data-mining firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.

The military kiboshed the plan last November soon after the Citizen broke the story.

In July 2020, the Citizen reported that the military had planned a propaganda campaign employing similar methods used by troops during the war in Afghanistan, including loudspeaker trucks blaring government messaging. The plan was halted due to ethical concerns.

Investigations also found:

  • The Canadian Joint Operations Command headquarters issued a plan for using propaganda techniques against Canadians during the pandemic, despite receiving no orders to do so from the federal government.
  • Military intelligence officers violated rules when they mined data from ordinary Canadians’ social media accounts because they failed to conduct a risk assessment before doing so.
  • Last September, military staff sparked panic in Nova Scotia when they forged letters warning the public that wolves were on the loose. Investigators found the staff behind the letter lacked formal training, and that soldiers did not properly understand policies governing the use of propaganda techniques.
  • Another review found the military’s public affairs branch plan to launch a propaganda operation was “incompatible with Government of Canada Communications Policy (and the) mission and principles of Public Affairs.”

Propaganda campaign continued after defence chief claimed it was shut down: CBC News reported the military influence campaign continued until November 2020 even though then-chief of defence staff, Jonathan Vance, called off the campaign in April.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told Parliament last year that the plan had been axed off almost immediately after it got off the ground.

[Ottawa Citizen]


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