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Written by: Aidan Jonah
Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an “independent” think-tank funded by massive oil corporations, mining corporations, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Atlas Network, recently got public attention for a new tool described as a “disinformation monitoring and debunking project”. The tool, launched in September 2020, is a website called “DisinfoWatch.org”, run by Marcus Kolga, a Senior Fellow at the MLI.
The MLI has a clear affinity for Epoch Times, defending the outlet in the face of a moderately critical CBC article. MLI Munk Senior Fellow Shawn Whatley has written for Epoch Times, the official newspaper of cult group Falun Gong, which calls for the overthrow of the Chinese government, more than 10 times since November 2019. In 2019 alone, the MLI had 8.9 per cent of its annual op-eds, 16 of 216 total across numerous outlets, appear in the Epoch Times. The Epoch Times also sponsored numerous MLI events during 2019.
A Globe & Mail article on the initiative openly stated that the website is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center and Journalists for Human Rights, along with the MLI. The GEC was described as “an organization created by former U.S. president Barack Obama to counter ‘foreign propaganda.’”
So who’s the person behind this project?
Marcus Kolga is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who joined in 2015. Kolga is described as a “documentary film-maker and noted proponent of Magnitsky legislation,” in the MLI’s 2017 annual report.
Kolga’s hiring was part of a pro-Magnitsky Act blitz initiated by the MLI since 2015.
The Magnitsky Act is a piece of legislation which is based on a stunning tale, where a young Russian lawyer for Bill Browder, fighting fraud was targeted in retaliation for exposing the truth about Russia. In reality, Browder is not a hero, and his story, including his claims about the actions of Sergei Magnitsky have been thoroughly debunked. Browder looted the Russian state for millions during the late 1990s and early 2000s, while Magnitsky was a key figure in ensuring that this was possible. While Magnitsky no doubt died in Russian prisons, there is no proof he was intentionally killed, and Browder fled numerous fraud investigations being launched at the time in Russia.
This story has been used to push a law which provides “for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” according to the Canadian government. This law has almost exclusively been used to target left-leaning states, or those states which are being targeted by the American empire, including a recent push to target China. Israeli apartheid, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Turkey, Ukrainian state backed neo-Nazi militias integrated into their armed forces and more have not been a concern to the Canadian government.
Canada’s Magnitsky law was passed with all-party support in March 2015, under the Harper government.
Kolga became a partner with the Ofelas group in February 2016, which “offers international Consular and Corporate Crisis Management Solutions.” It has focused on ensuring the implementation of the Magnitsky Act. Ofelas brags about applying “targeted pressure at every angle, including mobilizing third party support and implementing media campaigns, all aimed at freeing those unjustly detained or imprisoned.” Kolga is now Managing Director of the group
In April 2017, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee issued a report that strongly supported bringing Magnitsky legislation to Canada.
The MLI report proudly states that “Kolga played a key role arranging most of the star witness appearances and helping to draft the text.” That role was played on behalf of the Ofelas group, during which he worked alongside figures such as Bill Browder and Irwin Cotler.
The bill, officially known as the “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act,” gained the support of the Trudeau government’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, in July 2017. The bill officially passed into law until October 2017.
That November, Kolga won the Magnitsky Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Global Magnitsky Campaign.
But there’s so much more to Kolga, than just his recent actions:
His career began in January 1998, when he gained two positions in a short time. Those being:
Publisher & Executive Editor of The Northern European, a “North American weekly newspaper focusing on Northern European issues. Circulation of 50,000.”
Vice President of the TNE Media Group, a “North American - European ad agency focusing on promoting firms in both regions.”
He left both positions in January 2003, while TNE Media group changed its name to “Wellcomm Health and Wellness Communications Limited”, and was eventually dissolved for non-compliance in December 2012.
In March 2003, Kolga became a Principal Consultant at Liefa Communications, described as a “digital strategic communications, PR, advocacy firm with a focus on serving the government, NGO and non-profit community.”
Kolga proceeded to found anti-communist film producer, Realworld Pictures, in June 2003. The producer is active to this day, and has produced multiple films and shorts.
In 2006, Kolga became the volunteer Director of the Estonian Foundation of Canada, a position he would hold until 2016. In 2009, Kolga was a co-founder of the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, which consists of:
Kolga founded UpNorth.eu, an outlet focusing on news in the Nordic and Baltic Sea in February 2014, and serves as the publisher.
He left the EFC in March 2016, a month after becoming President of the Estonian Central Council in Canada. He would leave the role of ECC president in February 2020.
Estonia’s history with the Nazis
From 1947 to 1951, thousands of Estonians fled from the Soviet Union to Sweden, where they proceeded to take advantage of the waiving of many immigration regulations for Europeans post-WWII, to come live in Canada.
According to Howard Margolian, in Unauthorized Entry The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, during World War II, despite a small population, “Estonia provided an entire SS division to German forces in the East. (pg. 17)” Notably, Canadian immigration officials partially relied on the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which “was fully aware of the extent of SS membership in Estonia and Latvia,” according to Margolian. He further noted that “collaborators from eastern Europe and the Soviet Union often would have evaded detection.”
In 1947, Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) began an efforts to assist Estonians in settling in Canada, which succeeded within a year. In September 1948, the Canadian government amended immigration regulations to “permit the admission of up to five thousand Estonians from Sweden. (pg. 129)”
Margolian explained that C.D. Howe dictated that “Canadian immigration teams were not to disqualify Baltic veterans of the German Army from bulk-labour movements unless there was clear evidence they had been volunteers,” which was determined by checking records to see if Baltic citizens had joined the SS Forces before December 1, 1943. If they had joined before then they were rejected for immigration to Canada, if not, they simply had to convince the immigration officials that they were conscripted, an easy task given the Canadian political class’ determination for cheap European labour (pg. 93 & 94).
Margolian revealed that for “most of the Estonians who came legally from Stockholm required IRO's assistance in order to pay their passage, they first had to complete the organization's security-friendly CM/1 form with the assistance of Canadian immigration authorities.”
Hundreds of Estonians were able to sneak past immigration screening by landing in Montreal, taking boats from Sweden en masse. Eventually, thousands of other Estonians who took this route to Canada were subjected to the minimal screening procedures. It was only in August 1949, that the Canadian government took measures to prevent foreign citizens who avoided the immigration process from permanently entering Canada (pg. 130 & 131).
By 1950, “voluntary service in the regular German armed forces was no longer considered grounds for automatic rejection. (pg. 94)”
The ECC describes itself as “a nationally elected Council founded in 1951 that is mandated by Estonian-Canadians to help further the interests and development of our community.”
In 1985, the ECC was the first backer and a major supporter of the Nazi-collaborator glorifying annual event, Black Ribbon Day, the idea of Markus Hess. By 1986, Hess had the approval of Nazi collaborator linked organizations such as the Ukranian Canadian Congress, the Lithuanian Canadian Community, the Latvian National Federation in Canada. The first BRD event occurred in August 1986, in nine Canadian cities including Toronto, and has continued to occur annually ever since.
The ECC is a member of the Estonian World Congress (ÜEKN), the Baltic Federation of Canada and the Central and Eastern European Council of Canada (CEEC).
Coalition Against the Arms Trade (COAT) editor Richard Sanders explains that:
“The Estonian World Council (EWC) was formed in 1955 by the anti-communist émigré groups that led their ethnonationalist communities in Canada, the US and Sweden. ECC’s early leadership was rife with Nazi collaborators including former officers of Estonia’s Waffen SS.”
Sanders detailed the anti-communist nature of these organizations:
“The EWC has always aligned itself with other anticommunists groups through networks such as the Baltic States Freedom Council (BSFC), the Baltic World Conference, the CIA’s National Committee for a Free Europe and the Captive Nations movement.
The EWC worked with other fascist-led global pacts like the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN).”
Kolga is also the vice-president of the EWC.
Richard Sanders revealed that “In 2012, Estonia passed a law to hail Estonia’s Waffen SS as "freedom fighters." Sanders further details how “the Estonian Central Council in Canada and the Estonian World Council praise Estonia’s government,” but “have not condemned its glorification of Nazi veterans.”
In 2019, Kolga was elected as the President of the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, by the aforementioned member groups.
Three of the eight groups which make up the CEE in Canada were early supporters and organizers with Black Ribbon Day, being crucial figures in ensuring the events’ success.
The three Estonian and Baltic focused organizations in Canada, which Kolga has volunteered to be a leadership figure for, have not only refused to condemn Estonian government’s repeated apologetics for firm Estonian Nazi collaboration, but actively worked to rehabilitate the images of Nazi collaborators and promote them as positive figures to younger generations.
What has the MLI been up to since its 2011 launch?
On a foreign policy front, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has been supporting imperialism and colonialism since its founding in 2011. This includes:
Supporting Canada leading the 2011 NATO bombing campaign of Libya
Pushing nationalistic anti-China trade policies since 2013
Complaining about the inability of the Canadian military to procure updated military equipment in 2015
Campaigning to increase sanctions against Iran in 2016
Urging Trudeau to keep troops in Iraq and demanding the Trudeau government join with the US to deploy its military in the South China Sea and Pacific region, in 2017
After adding the Latvian defence ministry as a donor in 2017, it called for Canada to continue supporting the NATO mission in Latvia
Demanding that Canada block Huawei from 5G networks from 2018 onwards
The MLI also made Nathan Law, co-founder of the separatist Demosistō party and “pro-democracy” movement leader, a MLI fellow during 2019
In December 2019, the Institute published a media release describing Chinese President Xi Jinping as the “top Canadian policy-maker of the year.”
In July 2020, they called for China and Iran to be severely punished for allegedly covering up the original outbreak and failing to respond to COVID-19 in time.
The most recent controversial incident the institution was involved in, before the launch of DisinfoWatch.org, was the September 2020 release of a farcical report which smeared the Sikh community in Canada, produced by former CBC journalist Terry Milewski. This came out just 15 days before the “anti-disinformation” project was announced by the MLI.
What “Disinformation” has DiW “debunked” and who has it targeted since its launch
Since its founding in September 2020, Kolga has directed DisinfoWatch.org towards a mix of focuses, mainly debunking COVID conspiracies, “extreme left-wing conspiracies” and targeting “Russian and Chinese disinformation.”
The “DisinfoDigest” which gained the Globe & Mail’s attention originally was an analysis of tweets linked to Canadian accounts permanently suspended by Twitter as part of an anti-left purge targeting tweeters who were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.”
Tweets cited include those which called former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland a shameless warmongerer, one which said that ““Canada is really showing it’s war criminal colors as a colony of the United States empire,” and a 2017 tweet which says that ““Trudeau is another neoliberal capitalist pawn of the oligarchy.”
On December 26, 2020, a “DisinfoDigest” claimed that “Kremlin narratives” were being spread to discredit a Bellingcat election which claimed that Navalny was poisoned on the orders of Vladimir Putin.
This piece ignored how Bellingcat is an intelligence agency propaganda cutout, which was exposed for participating in covert UK Foreign Office funded programs to “weaken Russia”, and “is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, a US government entity that supports regime-change operations around the globe,” according to Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal. The farcical “investigation” was done in direct collaboration with Alexei Navalny, and pinned the crime on Russian intelligence services.
On February 10, 2021, a “DisinfoDigest” claimed that “Canada does not arbitrarily arrest foreign citizens,” ignoring that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest was based on extremely faulty evidence, which was part of a case based on US sanctions which are illegal under international law.
The site has also attempted to deny that resource companies such as KKR are utilising the COVID pandemic to expand oil & gas projects, with resistance restricted due to the danger of COVID. They attacked Canadian Dimension contributor Sean Carleton’s March 2020 article by utilising laughable technicalities which ignored the overarching situation.
It has also worked to smear the Chinese COVID response and Russian vaccines, while denying that Western pharmaceutical companies are being protected, by the West’s ignorance of the safety and low cost of both countries’ vaccines. British medical journal, The Lanclet, revealed that Sputnik V vaccine has a 91 per cent effectiveness, and does not cause deaths.
It has even attempted to claim that NATO countries are not attempting to militarize space, totally ignoring the US Space Force signed into law during 2020.
DisinfoWatch.org is a remarkably dangerous one, run by a figure in Marcus Kolga, who actively works to destabilize Russia and glorify Estonian Nazi collaborators. How ironic that an initiative supposed working to fight disinformation is a leading contributor to disinforming the Canadian public.
Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news site founded in 2019. He has written about Canadian imperialism, federal politics, and left-wing resistance to colonialism across the world. He is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Ryerson University, who was the Head of Communications and Community Engagement for Etobicoke North NDP Candidate Naiima Farah in the 2019 Federal Election.
This post was originally published on Articles - The Canada Files.