A false blog post claiming that the Trudeau government sent $465 million in foreign aid to Afghanistan, only to have it “disappear,” continues to be shared online.
The right-wing fringe political party that originally penned the post is one of a handful of Canadian groups that peddle false and misleading information online in an effort to spread xenophobic ideas, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
On April 29, the Cultural Action Party published a blog post on its website titled “Trudeau Govt Hand $465 Million To Afghanistan, Funds Disappear.” Since its original publication, the story has been posted to dozens of Facebook groups and garnered more than 20,000 interactions, according to the social media monitoring site CrowdTangle.
Weeks later, it continues to be shared.
Although the figure of $465 million is partially correct, most of the other assertions in the piece are incorrect or misleading.
Between 2001 and 2018, the government of Canada sent $3.24 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan for reconstruction and stabilization efforts, according to Global Affairs Canada. That total figure includes $465 million announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a 2016 NATO summit.
However, the blog post goes on to allege that the money has disappeared, citing a report from an unnamed “government oversight agency.”
In fact, the report was from an American agency and only looked at U.S. aid to Afghanistan. The report states that approximately one-third of U.S. aid to Afghanistan has been squandered due to “waste, fraud and abuse.”
Canada ended its more than 12 years of military involvement with U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2014, but remains tied to the Mideast country through foreign aid and development programs.
While Canada does not have an independent audit of how its money was used, the author of the U.S. report, Special Inspector-General John Sopka, told the Globe and Mail that it’s very likely similar problems plague Canadian funds.
Even so, the claim that all Canadian funds have “disappeared” is unsubstantiated.
The blog post also suggests foreign aid to Afghanistan is unique to the Trudeau government. But former prime minister Stephen Harper also committed hundreds of millions of dollars to helping development in the country. In fact, Trudeau has drawn criticism from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for not going far enough when it comes to foreign aid.
The Cultural Action Party is a right-wing political party that says it “represents Canadian citizens who value and wish to retain Canada’s traditional identity, heritage and official languages.” It registered and ran candidates in recent provincial elections in Ontario and British Columbia, and has been criticized for its ties to extreme far-right groups.
But it’s far from the only politically aligned group sharing false or misleading information, particularly with an anti-immigration or Islamophobic bent, according to Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Balgord said many smaller sites create misleading or skewed content, which gets shared within far-right communities and hate groups to bolster their messaging.
“Without a steady stream of misinformation, it’s impossible to come to the final conclusion that there’s an agenda by Muslims, and the Trudeau government is either implicit or too stupid to recognize it,” Balgord said. “It’s impossible to believe all of that without the fake information ecosystem.”