Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

OTTAWA – Election Canada was curious to know how many Canadians believed in conspiracy theories leading up to the recent federal referendum.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had two years left of his minority mandate in August when he threw the country out in an election while a fourth wave of COVID-19 raged.

Protesters opposed to public health measures such as masking and mandatory vaccinations staged demonstrations, some of which followed Trudeau as he crossed the country, throwing obscenities at him and at one point even gravel.

Months before the vote triggered, the federal agency responsible for conducting elections commissioned its first independent survey of the degree of trust Canadians had in the election process. It included figuring out how many had a “conspiracy mindset”.

“Questions about conspiracies allow for a better understanding of what can trigger mistrust of election administration,” Canada’s election spokeswoman Natasha Gauthier said in a statement, adding that “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant social and economic changes, including in the constituency. administration. “

“Looking at mistrust in general also helps us better understand what kinds of information and communication approaches can be effective in building trust in choices.”

The poll was conducted by the company Leger over 10 days in April and surveyed 2,500 Canadians online and through computer-aided interview technology.

It found that a majority of respondents trusted Elections Canada and believed that the voting system was “safe and reliable.”

When it came to conspiracy theories, the survey, recently published on a government website, reported that 17 percent thought the government was trying to cover up the link between vaccines and autism, and 30 percent thought new drugs or technologies were being tested on people without their knowledge.

The survey also found that 40 percent of respondents subscribed to believe that certain major events have been the product of a “small group secretly manipulating world events.”

Aengus Bridgman, a lead researcher on a project that tracked the spread of false and misleading information during the campaign, said it’s hard to put an exact figure on how many Canadians believe in conspiracies because it comes down to , how it is measured.

McGill University PhD student in political science says the project, organized in collaboration with the University of Toronto, has done its own research, suggesting that between 10 and 20 percent of people had a strong conspiracy belief.

Bridgman says false information about the new coronavirus played a big role during the election. Social media also saw a “relentless group of individuals” make untrue claims about how postal votes would be counted, reflecting what unfolded during the 2020 US presidential election, in which former President Donald Trump pushed for undocumented concerns about fake postal votes.

As Election Day on September 20 approached, Elections Canada received messages explaining the process of counting these ballots, but Bridgman says it needs to happen faster.

“As soon as it starts circulating on a Telegram channel, you can be pretty sure within 24 hours, 36 hours, that it will be on some of the more common platforms and people will be exposed to it.”

One of the effects of the pandemic, he says, is that vaccinations have become a “hotspot” where groups with different conspiracy-based beliefs, from the Earth flat to the supposedly scary agenda of big pharmaceutical companies, find a home together.

Mainstream political parties are often referred to as “big tent parties,” Bridgman notes. “Well, now we have this big tent conspiracy party.”

He says that a conspiracy theory that appeared during the campaign and also online was about so-called “climate locks”.

It was spread by, among others, longtime Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant from Ontario. Before the election, she circulated emails to voters warning that the Liberals wanted to impose a “climate lockdown” and made similar comments in a video posted on social media.

The video was removed after Conservative leader Erin O’Toole received questions about it.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 2, 2021.

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By Victor

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