In late March, the parliamentary all-party National Security and Intelligence Committee released an alarming report about the threat of foreign influence and disinformation against Canada. The report went largely ignored.
It warned that foreign interference poses the “greatest threat to Canadian prosperity and national interest” and that the activities of malign actors aligned with foreign states “threaten the fundamental building blocks of Canada’s democracy.”
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Six months later, the report’s warnings ring even louder, as the pandemic continues to catalyze disinformation aimed at destabilizing our democracy, and polarizing our society, while making us sicker. Despite this, no comprehensive government response has yet been announced.
Throughout this pandemic, millions of Canadians have been exposed to wild claims about COVID cures that have ranged from gargling hot lemon juice to drinking bleach. In April, the European Union warned that Moscow and Beijing were inundating the western world with such disinformation in order to intensify the effects of COVID. In one instance, Russian state media channel RT claimed that hand washing is not an effective way of combating COVID-19 — a statement that ran contrary to both medical advice and common sense.