By Scott Taylor
(October 19 ) – Last week there was a bizarre little story in the Ottawa Citizen that at first glance appeared to be so ridiculous that it had to be satire.
Reporter David Pugliese revealed that a letter from the Nova Scotia government sent out to residents in Annapolis Valley to warn about a pack of wolves on the loose in the province was forged by Canadian military personnel as part of a propaganda training mission that went off the rails.
Information warfare specialists with the Halifax Rifles – a reserve unit – had craftily drafted the letter, which informed recipients that wolves had recently been re-introduced to the region by the provincial government.
To make the letters more convincing the military schemers forged the letterhead of the Nova Scotia Wildlife Division. Lest someone still doubted the authenticity of these wolf warnings the plotters included an information phone number that connected to an Environment Canada employee who also appeared to be linked to the Canadian military.
To really scare the bejeezus out of everybody, the diabolical plot also included the planned use of a loud speaker to generate wolf sounds.
After receiving phone calls and emails from concerned residents, the Nova Scotia government quickly responded on social media that someone was sending out fake news. Once the media began probing the issue, the Canadian military had no choice but to sheepishly confess their role in this affair.
To date, no one from the Canadian Armed Forces has been able to offer any credible explanation about what happened. An investigation is now underway.
It would be easy to laugh this incident off by comparing it to a bad plotline in a Scooby Doo cartoon, but this has raised allegations about the Canadian military attempting to manipulate Canadian citizens on Canadian soil. That’s no joke.
It is also not an isolated incident but rather part of a much broader strategy of the CAF “weaponizing” Public Affairs as well as significantly increasing its propaganda warfare skills.
The concept of weaponizing the military’s public affairs branch was first proposed in 2015 by General Jonathan Vance shortly after he was promoted to Chief of the Defence Staff. However, the real driving force behind the “weaponization” program is Brigadier-General Jay Janzen, the Director General of military strategic communications.
It was recently revealed that Janzen authorized the expenditure of over $1 million on behaviour modification training for several dozen of his Public Affairs Officers.
The training provided was similar to the behaviour modification training that had been offered by the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. Keen eyed readers may recall that Cambridge Analytica was embroiled in a scandal involving the harvesting of personal Facebook data for use by U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
In response to the revelation that DND was investing in behaviour modification training, the official line is that this will help the military to plan strategic communication campaigns.
The question begs, when did it become the military’s responsibility to monitor and manipulate the Canadian public?
This past summer, at the height of the pandemic, the military created a thing called the Precision Information Team (PIT). This five person unit scoured social media accounts of private citizens in order to provide an in depth report to the Ontario government.
According to the PIT analysis the public were not very satisfied with the Doug Ford government’s care for the elderly during COVID-19.
Does one think Premier Ford really needed an official military report to tell him that?
There was also another plan for the CAF to ward off any pandemic driven civil disobedience with a propaganda campaign that called for “shaping” and “exploiting” information and using vehicle mounted loudspeakers patrolling Canadian streets. One has to wonder if they intended to scare would-be rioters off the streets with wolf noises?
The bottom line in all of this is that the Canadian military has no business targeting Canadian civilians with propaganda. That is what our political parties are for.
Scott Taylor is editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps, in which this article first appeared.