Canada’s military used the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to test propaganda techniques on citizens, despite never being ordered to by the country’s federal government, a report claims.
A report on the propaganda operation claimed that Canadian military leaders did not believe they needed the approval of the federal government to conduct the propaganda operations that were developed in April 2020.
Former Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Jon Vance shut down the programme, which was headed by the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), after some had called into question its legality. Vance also brought in retired Major General Daniel Gosselin to conduct a report on the operation.
According to the Ottawa Citizen Major General Gosselin investigated the operation and presented his findings in December, but the report had been unavailable to the public until the newspaper obtained it in a freedom of information request.
The plan is said to have used techniques that had been previously used by the Canadian military in Afghanistan and looked at both shaping and exploiting information, with the CJOC stating that the operation was needed to halt any potential civil disobedience during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, the former head of the CJOC, headed the propaganda operation that started on April 8th, 2020, but it was not shut down until May 2nd of that year, following General Vance’s orders.
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In his report, Gosselin noted that Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia said of the operation: “This is really a learning opportunity for all of us and a chance to start getting information operations into our [Canadian Armed Forces-Department of National Defence] routine.”
The investigation also noted that many at the CJOC were in support of the programme, rather than simply specialists in propaganda and that support was “clearly a mindset that permeated the thinking at many levels of CJOC.”
Gosselin went even further saying that those at the CJOC saw the pandemic as a “unique opportunity” to test their propaganda techniques on their own citizens in Canada.
The public reporting of the operation comes just months after it was revealed that Canadian military intelligence was monitoring the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement while making claims that it did so as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Intelligence officers are said to have monitored the social media accounts of BLM protesters. The Department of National Defence later claimed that the intelligence gathering was related to the deployment of the military in long term care homes during the pandemic as part of Operation LASER.
Columnist Mohammed Adam later wrote of the issue: “The Canadian Armed Forces are supposed to be our protectors, but for them to think that snooping on peaceful protesters is part of their call to duty is extremely disturbing. What happened to the Black Lives Matter movement is an affront to our democracy that we should never tolerate.”
Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that he would get tougher on those protesting coronavirus vaccine mandates outside hospitals and other health centres, saying that he would criminalise such protests.