The report of the inquiry into the invocation of the Emergencies Act, released on Feb. 17, states that social media acted as an “accelerant” for the spread of impactful “misinformation and disinformation” during last winter’s protests of COVID-19 restrictions. Commissioner Paul Rouleau noted that this misinformation likely influenced the views of some protesters and how they judged the quality of government health measures.
Rouleau stated that the federal government had met the “very high threshold” to declare a public order emergency to clear protesters in Ottawa and at a few border crossings. The movement had been triggered in January 2022 by truckers protesting the vaccine mandate at the Canada-U.S. border.
The report of the Public Order Emergency Commission touches upon the issues of social media, misinformation and disinformation several times, but does not expand on them greatly. Rouleau mentioned that this undermines “the ability of government officials and members of the public to meaningful[ly] engage in discussions on policy and governance.” He provided examples of issues raised by convoy organizers and participants, which he characterized as based on misinformation, such as James Bauder’s comment that mRNA injections are gene-altering and Pat King’s statement that the federal government had “implemented” the presence of Chinese soldiers in Canada.
Bauder’s gene-altering comment was made during the hearings to explain why he quit his job to avoid the vaccine mandate. Vaccine maker Moderna’s 2020 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) states that mRNA is currently considered a gene therapy product by the FDA, but that unlike certain gene therapies that irreversibly alter cell DNA, mRNA-based medicines are designed to not do so. An in-vitro study on a human liver cell line conducted by Swedish scientists and published last year discovered that “SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be reverse-transcribed and integrated into the genome of human cells.”
During his testimony before the commission, Pat King mentioned the “implementation of Chinese soldiers on Canadian soil,” but did not elaborate further. The Department of National Defence (DND) had cancelled the visit of Chinese soldiers to observe winter survival training five years ago over concerns raised by the U.S. government, according to official documents.
Rouleau also noted that his inquiry had been targeted by misinformation and disinformation, with false allegations that it was secretly controlled by Federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. He remarked that misinformation and disinformation cut both ways, saying he was “also satisfied that there was misinformation about the Freedom Convoy, which was used as a basis to unfairly discredit all protesters.” He highlighted the example of protesters being blamed for setting fire to an apartment building, which police said they were not involved in.
Overall, the report of the Public Order Emergency Commission highlights the impact of misinformation and disinformation on the protests of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the inquiry itself.
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