Military leaders saw pandemic as unique opportunity to test propaganda techniques on Canadians, Forces report says

(National Post) A plan devised by the Canadian Joint Operations Command relied on propaganda techniques similar to those employed during the Afghanistan war.

Canadian military leaders saw the pandemic as a unique opportunity to test out propaganda techniques on an unsuspecting public, a newly released Canadian Forces report concludes.

The federal government never asked for the so-called information operations campaign, nor did cabinet authorize the initiative developed during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Canadian Joint Operations Command, then headed by Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau.But military commanders believed they didn’t need to get approval from higher authorities to develop and proceed with their plan, retired Maj.-Gen. Daniel Gosselin, who was brought in to investigate the scheme, concluded in his report.The propaganda plan was developed and put in place in April 2020 even though the 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.”

A copy of the Dec. 2, 2020, Gosselin investigation, as well as other related documents, was obtained by this newspaper using the Access to Information law.

The plan devised by the Canadian Joint Operations Command, also known as CJOC, relied on propaganda techniques similar to those employed during the Afghanistan war. The campaign called for “shaping” and “exploiting” information. CJOC claimed the information operations scheme was needed to head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster government messages about the pandemic.

A separate initiative, not linked to the CJOC plan, but overseen by Canadian Forces intelligence officers, culled information from public social media accounts in Ontario. Data was also compiled on peaceful Black Lives Matter gatherings and BLM leaders. Senior military officers claimed that information was needed to ensure the success of Operation Laser, the Canadian Forces mission to help out in long-term care homes hit by COVID-19 and to aid in the distribution of vaccines in some northern communities.

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