Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Youth environmental group fake news pranked federal government

An organization of young people masquerading as Environment Canada created a fake Environment Canada webpage and sent pretend news releases to Canadian media with the aim of showcasing the government’s inactivity on climate change.

The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition news release yesterday directed readers to a website using the Environment Canada news template to promote the re-introduction of a grade school program from the early 1990s that taught children about climate change and environmental conservation. The fake Environment Canada web page promised a “renewed commitment from the Government of Canada to take on climate change.”

"It has become very clear to us that the government hasn’t been listening to the voices of youth or the voices of those that are the most affected by climate change when formulating their environmental and climate policies," said Amara Possian, a spokesperson for CYCC. "The government has forced us into finding creative ways to communicate our message."

A fake follow up release condemned the "Climate Education Hoax" and included made up quotes attributed to Environment Minister Peter Kent, such as, "We have set an ambitious but achievable target to limit greenhouse gas emissions to a 3 [percent] increase above 1990 levels."

"What a Difference a Degree Makes", the education program used in the hoax, was a module that taught elementary school children about global warming and conserving energy. While the web hoax intended to showcase the Canadian government’s inaction on climate change education and policy, CYCC also announced the launch of their own youth awareness campaign called Wings of Change. Possian said the program will be reaching out to 10,000 youths this fall and teaching them about the causes and effects of climate change as well as the solutions.

Possian said she was unsure if any media organization had run a story based on the fake releases, but Kady O’Malley wrote on her Inside Politics blog that she was briefly fooled this morning by the fake news releases.

The tactic of impersonation has been used before by social movement groups, particularly The Yes Men.

“I think (today’s campaign) was very successful and I’m basing that on the fact that I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback about the Wings of Change program and a lot of congratulatory messages for us about the fact that we are standing up and taking action on this issue right now,” Possian said.

Environment Canada issued a statement on their website later in the morning saying simply that the fake webpages were in no way affiliated with the Government of Canada. Environment Canada could not be reached for comment.

Grace Scott is completing her practicum at The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus