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Canadian military used Covid-19 pandemic to test propaganda techniques on citizens, reveals a report by Canadian Forces

The propaganda plan by military was developed and used in April 2020 in Canada, but it was withdrawn on May 2 after several officers had questioned the legality and ethics behind the plan

The Canadian military had seen the Covid-19 pandemic to test new propaganda techniques without taking approval from the govt, a recently released report by Canadian Forces says. Reportedly, the military saw the pandemic situation as an ideal situation to test propaganda techniques on the public, similar to propaganda used in Afghanistan. The military plan was exposed in a report by retired Major General Daniel Gosselin, who was brought in to investigate the scheme.

The propaganda plan was developed and used in April 2020 in Canada, even though Canadian Forces had already acknowledged that “information operations and targeting policies and doctrines are aimed at adversaries and have a limited application in a domestic concept.”

The plan was made public after the report of retired Major General Daniel Gosselin and other related documents were obtained under the Access to Information law. The plan was devised by the Canadian Joint Operations Command or the CJOC, which called for “shaping” and “exploiting” information. CJOC said that an information operations scheme was needed to combat disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic, and also to bolster government messages about the pandemic.

Another unrelated initiative run by Canadian Forces intelligence officers picked information from public social media accounts in Ontario. Data on peaceful gatherings of Black Lives Matter and their leaders were also compiled under this initiative. Military officers claimed that such information was needed to ensure the success of Operation Laser, a mission by Canadian Forces to help care homes hit by the pandemic, and to help in distribution of vaccines in northern regions.

This initiative was undertaken by the military on its own, the federal govt had not asked them to do it, and the cabinet didn’t approve the scheme. According to the report by Gosselin, military officials believed that they didn’t need to get approvals to implement their propaganda campaign.

Gosselin’s probe found that the scheme was not just an idea of few military propaganda specialists, but it was supported across the board in military, showing a similar mindset at different levels in military. The officers thought that the pandemic was a unique opportunity to test out the propaganda techniques on Canadians.

The military saw the plan “as an opportunity to monitor and collect public information in order to enhance awareness for better command decision making,” the report by Gosselin stated. As a result, order for the propaganda plan was issued by the military on April 8, 2020.

However, it was withdrawn on May 2 after the then chief of the defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance ordered to shut it down after several advisers had questioned the legality and ethics behind the plan. After pulling the initiative down, Jon Vance had appointed retired Major General Daniel Gosselin to investigate the matter.

According to Gosselin, the military leadership saw its pandemic response “as an opportunity to monitor and collect public information in order to enhance awareness for better command decision making.” The report also says that CJOC officers had dismissed concerns raised by other military officers regarding the plan.

In the report, Gosselin has recommended a comprehensive review of Canadian Forces information operations policies and directives, especially those operations that may impact any activities for domestic missions.

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