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They not only forged the logo of the Wildlife Division of Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry but they 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, which residents were to call if they had concerns about the wolves, was traced by this newspaper to the work number of an Environment Canada employee, who also appears to be a Canadian Forces reservist.
The Canadian Forces revealed its role behind the fake letter last week to the Nova Scotia government and then on the weekend to local news media. Media outlets reported military staff had written the letter but didn’t know why.
Emma Briant, a professor at Bard College in the U.S. who specializes in researching military propaganda, said 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.”
Briant said the deception has nothing to do with wolves; it was likely an exercise in the testing the military’s skills in trying to manipulate the population with false information. “You start a rumour about wolves on the loose and then you see how the public reacts,” she added.
Similar deception operations were tried by contractors of SCL, a propaganda company which had worked for the U.S. and British militaries in Afghanistan and other locations in Asia. In those cases, false information was transmitted to villagers to convince them not to send their children to religious schools where they might be radicalized. But instead of being truthful, the contractors concocted an information campaign claiming pedophiles were operating in religious schools and parents shouldn’t send them there because their children would be in danger of being molested.