After the Minister of Defense closed down, military operations affecting public opinion continued

After the Minister of Defense closed down, military operations affecting public opinion continued


CBC News has learned that a few months after the then Chief of the Defense Staff ordered the closure of military information activities in the spring of 2020, some military information activities aimed at affecting the Canadian public during the COVID-19 pandemic continued.

The Canadian military recently conducted four reviews of controversial measures. CBC News obtained a copy of one of the comments based on access to information legislation.

The review showed that even after the then Chief of Defense Jonathan Vance verbally cancelled the overall influence campaign in April 2020, the influence campaign against Canadians continued for six months-until Vance A written decree 2020 was issued in November.

“Public Affairs, [civil-military cooperation] And affect ongoing activities, especially in [Joint Task Force Central]And did not stop,” the review document said, which looked at the origin of the influence movement.

The conclusions of the review are significant because Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan assured Parliament last year that these activities stopped almost immediately after they started. However, in the months after Sajjan’s statement, various problematic initiatives continued, including a publicity training event involving fake wolves in Nova Scotia.

The censorship documents seen by CBC News found that public affairs officers and members of the Military-Civil Cooperation Section (CIMIC) did not find “ambiguity”, nor did they see “obvious links” between what they were doing and Vance. Is considered a violation of federal regulations.

Acting Chief of Defense Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre listens to speakers at the Canadian Army Command Change Parade in Ottawa on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Adrian Wilder/Canada Press)

According to instructions issued by the Acting Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen of the Ministry of Defense on Wednesday. Wayne Eyre and Sajjan’s Deputy Minister Jody Thomas stated that during the pandemic, the military deployed propaganda technology in Canada without approval. Authorities have permitted the collection of information about Canadians’ online activities.

Al and Thomas’ orders admitted that the military had gone too far.

Al and Thomas wrote in the instructions signed on June 9: “Although some members have the best intentions, errors in domestic operations and training, as well as sometimes the isolation mentality of various echelons, have eroded. Increased public confidence in the institution.”

After CBC News asked the Department of Defense (DND) why the results of the review (completed at various times in the past seven months) were still undisclosed, Al issued instructions to senior military and civilian leaders on Wednesday.

DND stated that it will take time to review the results together and will release all survey results “in the next week or so.”

This time coincides with the summer adjournment of parliament-if the election is called, the results of the review may be lost in the hustle and bustle of the fall election.

DND insists it does not use “psyops” against Canadians

Citizens of Ottawa first reported the directive on Thursday and wrote a series of groundbreaking stories about the use of information by the Canadian military during the pandemic.

The military is allowed to perform psychological manipulations when deployed abroad-but it is forbidden to do so in Canada without special permission from the Federal Cabinet.

The DND insists that activities undertaken to monitor and shape public discourse, because it is related to the pandemic, do not constitute psychological manipulation.

In fact, DND denied that it used psychological warfare techniques honed during the Afghan War on Canadians. But in the past few years, the boundaries between psychological warfare and information warfare operations have become increasingly blurred.

The instructions signed by Al and Thomas reminded commanders that “domestic military operations” in the information environment should not be directed against Canadian citizens.

Consultation “at least and in a hurry”

The review document obtained by CBC News stated that the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) was led by the Lieutenant General. Mike Rouleau, in April 2020, “freely explain” departmental policies. The department decided that it has the right to conduct information operations on Canadians without government approval because the government requires it to help respond to the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, military health care personnel prepare patients in the mobile health department of Sunnybrook Hospital. (Nathan Dennett/Canada Press)

The review document stated that CJOC did not obtain permission from DND or Vance, but “freely explained” Canada’s information operation policy.

The review of the documents concluded that CJOC’s consultations were “rare and rushed initially”. It said that only after the Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Affairs raised concerns did the department consult with people elsewhere in the DND headquarters. The review stated that when the matter was submitted to Vance, he shut down operations.

The directive stated that although CJOC’s information operations were ordered to be closed, the CJOC order that initiated these operations “facilitated a series of low-level decisions and problematic activities, causing reputational damage to DND/CAF.”

The review found that Canadians were operated on information without approval, and an “unapproved” report was made to monitor the online activities of Canadians.

The Citizen of Ottawa reported last year that a special intelligence team searched people’s social media accounts in Ontario, claiming that it was to help the military work in long-term care homes that were hit hard by the pandemic. The paper stated that the data obtained through this work has been shared with the Ontario government.

“Furthermore, the team failed to conduct a risk assessment before conducting activities on the Internet, which violated the requirements, and they collected Canadian citizen information without our explicit instructions,” the directive said.

Crying wolf

After the reserve force specializing in information warfare conducted a propaganda training exercise in Nova Scotia in September 2020, the military launched another investigation. A false letter warning about gray wolves wandering around.

Image of a gray wolf taken by a tracking camera in Saskatchewan. There are no gray wolves in Nova Scotia, despite a false letter warning residents that these animals have been released into the community. (Canada Park)

The military apologized and called the exercise a mistake-but even if it was unintentional, it did amount to a psychological manipulation of Canadians to affect their mentality. Many Nova Scotias believe the wolf is at large, and the province’s land and forestry department had to respond publicly, saying the warning was false.

“These reviews again concluded that members and leaders lack formal training, the policies governing psychological activities are not well understood, and appropriate control measures have not been taken for such training,” Al and Thomas’ instructions said.

The directive stated that it was “clearly” that the various information manipulation tools deployed by the military in Canada were affected “due to a lack of institutional-wide” guidance to ensure proper authority and supervision are in place.

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