Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly has told a parliamentary committee that her mandate includes wartime information operations like battling propaganda online, despite her directives including no such role.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Joly made the comments during a meeting of the Commons foreign affairs committee. They came in response to a question by Liberal MP Randeep Sarai on how Canada was fighting Russian disinformation online as it pertains to the invasion of Ukraine.
“We’ve banned Russia Today and Sputnik on the broadcasting side. We’ve pushed digital platforms to also ban them but we need to do more,” said Joly. “My mandate as foreign minister is really to counter propaganda online.”
Nowhere in Joly’s mandate letter does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau task her with combating disinformation or propaganda online.
The only reference to online content is a single bullet point asking that Joly work with the Minister of Canadian Heritage to “take steps to build an international coalition to develop a new UNESCO convention on the diversity of content online.”
“Can you discuss the work led by Canada to fight disinformation in this context, whether it’s propaganda within Russia or propaganda outside, and how the West can fight?” asked Sarai.
“In every war information is key because it justified why you start war. What we’ve seen since the beginning of this war, before the war, there was a big propaganda campaign,” elaborated Joly. “Since then they’ve been engaging in more and more of their propaganda. Meanwhile we know that it is happening in Ukraine and in Russia but at the same time it’s happening in our democracies.”
“Social media companies need to do more. They need to make sure they recognize states have jurisdiction over them and that they’re not technology platforms but they’re content producers. It is our way collectively to make sure that we can really be able to have strong democracies in the future because this war is being fought with 21st century tools including social media,” she continued.
The Liberal government has ordered the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to ban Russian state outlets including Russia Today from being broadcast in Canada.
On Mar. 17, the CRTC made the decision to axe its access to Canada’s airwaves.