Military insiders are shining a light on a recent public relations mishap in the Canadian Armed Forces. Controversy has arisen after the CAF dedicated a team to inform the public about the effects of civil disobedience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Insiders told the Ottawa Citizen that the CAF instituted a propaganda campaign during the pandemic without a well-established overview.
The programs main purpose included manipulation and projection of certain media that was made to convince the public to conform to current pandemic related legislation, and if needed, maintain order in case of mass rejection of these laws.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s press secretary, Floriane Bonneville, told reporters that the propaganda campaign was a "mistake" and mentioned that outgoing Gen. Vance, the Chief of Defence Staff, will assemble a "team of legal, communications and policy staff, to investigate what happened."
Gen. Jon Vance quickly put the brakes on the team’s actions due to the overreaching dystopian aspect of the program. Officials in the Armed Forces saw similarities between the way they projected anti-Taliban messages in Afghanistan and the way that the planned to inform the public about civil disobedience, including using military vehicles with speakers and setting up portable radio outposts. The plans included “village assessments” which would be held between Canadian military leaders and Canadian NGOs or heads of religious organizations.
This mishap comes to light after a separate investigation launched by the Canadian Armed Forces deems to unravel a perceived breach of privacy by an intelligence unit working inside of the military on COVID-19 related information gathering. The Cape Breton Post says the investigation's main purpose was to determine whether this unit illegally collected information from the public’s social media accounts during the pandemic.
The Canadian Armed Forces told reporters that “Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Twitter accounts were scanned by the five-person group called the Precision Information Team or PiT.” Apparently all of the data was publicly available.
These investigations come at a time when many Canadian citizens are worried about the overreaching properties of COVID-19 related legislation and the role of the government in the response.