THEIR FAKE WOLF STORY FAILED. It didn’t frighten the folks in Nova Scotia. But, the fact our military used it on us to test their propaganda capabilities should frighten us all.
The fake wolf story is part of a new propaganda role our military wants to carve out for itself, in order to shape and direct the “attitudes, beliefs and behaviours” of target populations—including Canadians.
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance calls it the “weaponization” of the military’s public affairs branch. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is not at all sure our military should be making plans to do this.
“No such plan has been approved, nor will it be,” says Floriane Bonneville, Sajjan’s press secretary. Not surprising given the fake wolf story and other dubious actions military planners took to advance their supposed public affairs enhancement techniques.
Wolves that never were
There were never any wolves. But someone in the Halifax Rifles reserver unit—the military can’t yet say who—sent a letter out to folks in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia on September 19 to warn them about a roving pack of dangerous wolves. The fake letterhead made it look like the letter was from the Nova Scotia government. It wasn’t.
The forger also attributed the letter to a real Nova Scotia government employee, even though they didn’t have permission to do so. A phone number on the letter is the work number of an Environment Canada employee, who also appears to be a Canadian Forces reservist.
The letter was part of a Canadian Forces propaganda training exercise that may, or may not, have been authorized. The military claims no one had authorization to send the letter out to the public. But someone did.
The training also involved using a loudspeaker to broadcast wolf sounds over the valley. Also an action the military claims was done without any authorization.
Regardless, the whole exercise was not a showcase for the military’s supposed new public affairs enhancement skills.
Emma Briant is a professor at Bard College in the U.S. who specializes in researching military propaganda. She says what the Canadian Forces did was a major violation of ethics. “This is way over the top,” Briant said. “It’s a very dangerous path when you start targeting your own public with false information and trying to manipulate them.”
Other grand plans
An Ottawa Citizen investigation revealed the Canadian Forces also planned a propaganda campaign aimed at heading off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan used similar propaganda tactics to those employed against the Afghan population during the war in Afghanistan, including loudspeaker trucks to transmit government messages. The propaganda operation was never put into action.
The Citizen also reported a Canadian military intelligence unit monitored and collected information from people’s social media accounts in Ontario. That data was turned over to the Ontario government, with a warning from the team it represented a “negative” reaction from the public.
The Canadian Forces stresses that it follows ethical guidelines in its propaganda operations.
But others inside the military say that isn’t the case, pointing to the Nova Scotia operation as a prime example as it violated Canadian privacy law and the Criminal Code when soldiers forged documents.
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