Canada's QAnon 'Queen' forced out of Kamsack, Sask.
Residents protested, RCMP escorted Romana Didulo and her followers out of town Wednesday
A woman known as a QAnon-inspired conspiracy theorist who purports to be the "Queen of Canada" was forced out of Kamsack, Sask., on Wednesday.
Romana Didulo and some of her followers had convoyed into Kamsack, according to local residents and town officials who spoke with CBC News.
Within a six-hour period Wednesday, a couple of hundred townspeople peacefully protested their presence and the RCMP eventually escorted the group out of town, they say.
"The pride we have in our town today is so immense," said Kamsack Mayor Nancy Brunt. "We're so grateful for what everyone did yesterday, coming together all on the same side, all saying, 'This is our town and no one is going to take it away from us.'"
Didulo started as a far-right QAnon conspiracy theorist a couple years ago but has turned into something else, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, an independent, non-profit organization that says it monitors, exposes and counters hate groups.
Didulo has declared herself the "Queen of Canada," among other titles including the national Indigenous leader. She has amassed thousands of followers by pushing conspiracy theories and what she calls decrees through social media, particularly Telegram — a messaging app popular with the far-right.
Some of her followers are in personal trouble for following her directives, such as one saying they no longer need to pay tax on utility bills, Balgord said, but others decrees include tones of violence.
"This is not necessarily a group of harmless people," he said. "We are talking about a cult.
"It only takes one person, who might be in crisis, to act out on her rhetoric."
Didulo travels through Canada in an RV, accompanied by supporters in other vehicles. Some of the vehicles are draped with purple banners and signs.
The convoy tends to focus on small- to mid-size communities, Balgord said.
Coming to Kamsack
Overnight Tuesday, the group pulled into Kamsack, a town of roughly 1,800 people about 225 kilometres northeast of Regina, near the provincial border.
Ken Thompson, the town's chief of the volunteer fire department and bylaw enforcement, was the first town official to attend to the vehicles, which were parked on the downtown's main street Wednesday morning.
A group of people were standing outside the vehicles, in front of a First Nations centre downtown, he said. People standing outside the centre were becoming agitated, as members of Didulo's entourage informed them that they were going to be educated.
"They were going to clean up the town in one month," Thompson recalled them saying.
"People just got more upset."
Sherise Fountain, the town's community safety officer and acting chief administrative officer, eventually joined Thompson at the scene.
She engaged with some of the followers, who informed her who was in the RV, although Didulo never exited the vehicle, Fountain said.
The crowd was growing and the tension was building, she said. Fountain called RCMP, town councillors and Mayor Nancy Brunt to the scene. An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News that officers from the Kamsack detachment were called around 11 a.m. CST to help keep the peace.
The mayor encountered some of Didulo's security guards when she arrived and asked them why they were in Kamsack, Brunt said. One of them questioned the mayor's authority. Another said they were there "because God had given them this land."
"You can't come into a town and tell the mayor, the community safety officer and the RCMP — and people of town — that you're in charge," Brunt told CBC News.
"They were told, 'No, you're not in charge.' I am the mayor. This is my town, I'm in charge. First Nations people said, 'You are not our chief. You are not the chief of Canada. We do not recognize you in any way, shape or form.'"
The town officials and RCMP officers were able to keep both sides calm, Brunt said. The RCMP officers were able to separate the parties, the spokesperson said.
Town officials set up a town hall meeting with George Cote, chief of nearby Cote First Nation, for 3 p.m. CST Wednesday, and invited Didulo.
Hospital locked doors, SHA confirms
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network started keeping tabs on Didulo after receiving reports of people delivering "cease and desist" notices, following her decrees, to various agencies and institutions. The notices threatened execution, Balgord said.
Didulo's rhetoric escalated when she urged her followers to "shoot to kill" anyone who administers vaccines to children.
"The concern is that somebody might actually think … it's a legit order, from a person who has legitimate power — which is not true," said Christine Sarteschi, a professor of social work and criminology at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa., who has studied Didulo extensively.
Health-care facilities and professionals have been a particular target because of conspiracies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Saskatchewan Health Authority spokesperson confirmed to CBC News that, on Wednesday afternoon, the Kamsack Hospital's doors were locked and monitored by security to manage public entry.
The measures, which did not prevent locals from accessing hospital care, were implemented to ensure the facility was safe, the spokesperson said.
Town bands together
Word spread. Nina Cote was among the Kamsack residents who learned what was happening and started researching Didulo.
Cote was sickened by her rhetoric and scared for the safety of her children, two of whom were in school that day.
"We can't have someone like that in our community," she said.
As the town hall meeting neared, more people streamed to the downtown to protest the presence of Didulo and her followers. Town officials told CBC News that there were a couple of hundred people, including some with picket signs.
Cote, her husband, mother and two-year-old son were in the crowd. Didulo sat in the front of her RV, but that was the only time they could see her, she said.
"It made me feel good knowing that our community actually came together," Cote said.
Town officials Fountain and Thompson went to the RV around 3 p.m. CST to invite Didulo to the meeting, but the convoy was already starting to pack up, Fountain said.
Didulo never left her vehicle. The convoy was packed and escorted out of town just before 4 p.m. CST, Fountain said.
An RCMP spokesperson confirmed officers provided "a courtesy accompaniment to one party" as they left Kamsack.
An investigation into the issue found the matter was not criminal in nature and no safety risk existed, the spokesperson said.
CBC News tried contacting Didulo for comment, but did not receive a response.
Balgord, of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told CBC News that Wednesday's events in Kamsack are "quite encouraging," as other Canadian communities have been unable to get her to leave so quickly.
The town feels some relief that the potential threat is gone, officials and residents said, but knowing someone like Didulo is out there has shaken them.