“If people don’t think the government is there, looking after them, they might lose confidence in the government’s ability to do that.”
— LCdr Jordan Holder, senior MARLANT Public Affairs Officer
The mandate of the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division, whose motto is “Veritas” was once described thus:
The mission of the Public Affairs Branch is to inform Canadians of the policies, programs, services, activities, operations and initiatives of the Canadian Forces in a manner that is accurate, complete, objective, timely, relevant, understandable and open and transparent within the law. Public Affairs Officers are assigned to Commands, Formations, and Bases across Canada and are often deployed overseas.
You can wipe “Veritas” (Truth) from their mission.
Normally western governments employ print and broadcast media to distribute information to mere citizens. Here in Canada, the military does it.
Today’s Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division is far more concerned with manipulating public opinion and trolling social media accounts than it is with disseminating the truth.
This disturbing news is affirmed by the actions of the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division itself, which faked a letter from the Nova Scotia Wildlife Division as part of “honing its expertise for launching propaganda missions at home and abroad.”
There is so much wrong with this approach it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start here:
Follow the Money
The Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division spent over $1 million training its officers in “behaviour modification techniques” for use on social media and other delivery systems.
The Canadian Forces’ intentional deception was characterized as “an exercise in testing the military’s skills in trying to manipulate the population with false information” by Emma Briant, a professor who specializes in researching military propaganda.
“It’s a very dangerous path when you start targeting your own public with false information and try to manipulate them,” said Professor Briant.
Welcome to George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, whose government minions wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them across the face with a wet lasagna noodle.
I keep telling the Canadian government that 1984 by George Orwell was fiction, not an instruction manual, but clearly I’m making no headway on that front.
Truth is Irrelevant
In our modern and enlightened age, Truth is an outdated concept we just can’t quite kill. Like a bad rash or Justin Trudeau speech, the Truth just keeps hanging around despite our best efforts to wipe it from our national memory.
It’s almost as if The Truth didn’t receive the Canadian Human Rights Commission memo aka R. v. Whatcott:
The lack of defences is not fatal to the constitutionality of the provision. Truthful statements can be presented in a manner that would meet the definition of hate speech, and not all truthful statements must be free from restriction.
The Truth is no defense for fear someone will be offended by it.
How woke of our Supreme Court.
Weaponizing the Public Affairs Division
The National Post reports the Canadian Forces has created a new Defence Strategic Communication group which will advance “national interests by using defence activities to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of audiences,” according to the document dated October 2020.
This weaponization of the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division against mere citizens must be sanctioned by the Minister of National Defence. How else can the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Division get budget approval for this program?
It will come as no surprise to you that the office of Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence says the plan is not authorized to proceed, despite the fact it’s already proceeded, as outlined above.
I find the Minister’s assurance difficult to believe, given:
- the Public Affairs Division forged documents from the Nova Scotia Wildlife Division in some weird psy-ops game gone wrong.
- Public Affairs Division conducted a series of town hall meetings for military personnel last week specifically outlining the strategies contained in the plan.
- the plan quotes Brigadier-General Jay Janzen, director general military public affairs: “The motto ‘who dares, wins’ is as applicable to strategic communication as it is to warfare.”
- a Canadian military intelligence unit monitored and collected information from the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of users in Ontario earlier this year.
- the plan calls for the use of “select Canadian Forces staff to push out pre-approved government and military messages to the public.
- Although this social media activity would appear to come from personal accounts of military personnel, Canadian Forces public affairs officers behind the scenes would craft, coordinate and publish those messages.
Welcome to the Ministry of Truth.
Remember these words from Floriane Bonneville, Press Secretary for Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence:
Such an unequivocal statement from the Minister’s press secretary can mean only one thing: if this approval hasn’t already been given, it will be shortly.
The most chilling line from the National Post story arguably comes at the very end.
As part of that PR effort, dossiers were created about journalists the military believed would cover the issue of racists in the ranks, including the CBC’s Murray Brewster.
The dossier about Brewster, who has since broken a number of stories about the far-right in the Canadian Forces, contained transcripts of his interviews with senior military staff and the warning, “He’s familiar with the defence system, and his reporting, while factual, often emphasizes the mistakes and shortcoming of DND and the CAF.”
Bonneville said the minister did not and will not authorize the creation of the dossiers on journalists. She did not, however, provide an explanation on why the files were created by Canadian Forces staff.
In addition, under Sajjan’s watch, an invitation-only Facebook page has been created where serving and retired military and DND public affairs staff share information about journalists. There are more than 400 participants on the Facebook page, which is officially supported by the DND.
The Trudeau government is playing both ends against the middle.
If buying off media outlets doesn’t deliver the desired results, federal government dossiers on “uncooperative journalists” undoubtedly will — after appropriate pressure is applied, of course.