That's a great question. When we saw the emergence of the pandemic in March of 2020, a lot of us who have been keeping an eye on Russian disinformation, those tactical narratives that they use and the types of issues that they target, saw that COVID would provide a fertile ground for those Russian propagandists to sink their teeth into, with issues on the far left and far right, and pull us apart. In fact, already in 2018 and 2019 we were observing Russian propagandists promote anti-vaccination narratives regarding polio vaccines, smallpox, chickenpox vaccines, any sort of vaccines. They were promoting vaccine hesitancy about those specific narratives. It wasn't surprising that we saw those same narratives emerge around COVID.
What they did, again early on in the pandemic, was identify anti-lockdown movements that were quite small at the time, and anti-vaccination movements, and promote those narratives. On their embassy websites we actually saw the Russian embassy in Canada directly promote vaccine hesitancy using their state media platforms like RT and others, and this constellation of proxy platforms that I mentioned before. The information that was posted there was then picked up by these anti-vaccination movements, and it created a feedback loop whereby the Russian state media and those proxy organizations would then echo what was being promoted by what were then rather fringe groups to legitimize them.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, what we saw was an injection of anti-government narratives into those anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination narratives. You could see that the Russian government was going to use those narratives to try to, again, polarize our society, divide it, and we saw the result really on January 6 on Capitol Hill. That was part of it, but you could see that Canada was headed in very much the same direction and you could see Russian state media continuing to fuel that shift.
Again, with regard to the Ottawa protest I'm not suggesting that the Russian government or Russian propagandists were behind it, but they do exploit situations like that. We saw Russian state media provide a platform for fringe elements within it, which served to discredit the actual legitimate protesters in there and the narratives there. They provided a platform for these individuals who were calling for the violent overthrow of our government. This is how the Russian disinformation system works, and that's really representative of the threat that it poses to our democracy.
I should also note that for one of the larger organizations that was already promoting anti-lockdown protests early on here in Canada, starting in the summer of 2020, and that became one of the larger organizations doing it, as soon as the invasion of Ukraine occurred on February 24, their anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown narratives quickly switched to anti-Ukrainian narratives, and exactly the same ones that the Russian government was promoting about the de-nazification of Ukraine. There was a clear correlation between the two. Again, it's something that we anticipated early on, and this is something that the government should be learning from, because we can anticipate where Russia and other foreign actors will seek to try to polarize us just by keeping an eye on the most sensitive issues in society.