After the bizarre incident of a Canadian military training psyop involving a mocked letter about a fictitious pack of invading wolves and a loudspeaker playing taped howls went viral for its mistaken exposure to civilians, the head of the defense department has halted all training of “influence activities” for Canadian soldiers pending a formal investigation of the matter.
“I was extremely concerned about the creation of the letter by 36 Canadian Brigade Group,” said Minister Harjit Sajjan, the head of Canada’s Department of National Defence, in an email to VICE News. “Though training our Canadian Armed Forces members on how best to respond to foreign actors who use influence activities, the creation of this letter was wrong and should never have occurred.”
“To ensure that a mistake like this does not happen again, I have directed the Canadian Army to pause training related to these sort of influence activities until the conclusion of the investigation,” he said.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has become increasingly interested in training its personnel in recognizing psyops emanating from the enemy. A recent deployment of Canadian soldiers in Latvia, part of a broader NATO mission to deter Russian aggression in the Baltics, has been the frequent target of Kremlin-born disinformation campaigns.
The training letter, penned by officers for a larger exercise in September of reservists meant to expose them to those types of influence operations, was so convincingly forged it looked like an official transmission from the wildlife ministry of the provincial government of Nova Scotia. After it was leaked to the public, distressing locals, the province was forced to issue a statement discounting the fakery: “Alert: This letter has been showing up in some mailboxes. It’s fake. We do not know who circulated it or why,” the department tweeted. “There have been no Gray wolves released anywhere in Nova Scotia by any government agencies.”
The story made international headlines and was enough of a fiasco that Sajjan has taken sharp action to now halt any training of the Canadian military involving such influence activities, until further notice.
Last week a source in the CAF who was familiar with the situation (and wasn’t authorized to speak to the media) explained to VICE News that the letter was never meant to be released to the public, but was simply an attempt at making a training simulation more authentic.
“Tactical psyops soldiers were practicing setting up and using a loudspeaker with a larger group of soldiers,” they said, maintaining that the training wasn’t a lesson in how to manipulate the civilian populations of Canada.
Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter.