Sep 27, 2023

Convoy targets Sask. cult compound

Medicine Hat News
September 26, 2023

A criminologist who studies anti-government movements says communities and authorities need to take greater notice and action against conspiracy-fuelled groups like one setting up in a Saskatchewan village near Medicine Hat.

About 50 residents of Richmound, Sask. took part in a protest on Sunday, parading vehicles, farm equipment and honking horns around a former school where followers of “Queen Romana Didulo” have set up housing.

They told Alberta Newspaper reporters that they want her out of the village of about 150 residents, but as the group is on private property and since authorities don’t believe any crime has been committed there are few legal avenues to force them out.

The woman, who has tens of thousand online followers, claims to be the rightful monarch of Canada. For several years she has travelled across the country in an RV telling supporters she has forgiven their taxes and debts, will punish health workers for the COVID-19 response and is now the rightful ruler of Canada. Christine Sarteschi is a professor at Chatham University in Pittsburgh who has written about the rise of anti-society groups and has followed Didulo’s rise in particular.

She said that community actions like Sunday’s in Richmound and a similar event in Kamsack, Sask., last week — where 200 townspeople and members of nearby First nation ushered Didulo supporters out of town under police escort — show community action can have an effect, but tensions can arise.

“Look at how we deal with potential fraud issues — governments could warn people about these people are this type of behaviour,” said Sarteschi in a phone interview with the News on Monday.

“Too often people will laugh at people like her, or tell jokes and think it’s funny, and I understand that to the degree. But it takes away from the potential seriousness of it, and the real people who are being harmed by believing in these false ideas.”

Some current residents and former residents who now live in Medicine Hat say they are concerned the village may have too low of a population to stage a proper opposition.

The RCMP or Saskatchewan government have not issued any formal statement.

Sarteschi believes the group has been welcomed to the village by some existing residents, but only has a core group of perhaps ten individuals who are likely looking to create a base for the winter.

They typically travel in an RV to meet up with other supporters while the leader issues statements about controlling the military, promising relief payments and assuring followers that actions current government and health officials are imminent.

“They think they’re above the law,” said Sarteschi. “She does dabble in some sovereign citizen beliefs, but she’s across the board, with some QAnon, believing in a number of conspiracy theories.”

“Sovereign citizens” is used to describe those who argue against the legitimacy of courts or police authority using convoluted legal arguments and unrelated documents like the Magna Carta, Maritime Law or the Geneva Convention, among others

“QAnon” came to the forefront in Untied States prior to the 2020 U.S. presidential election when online movement argued that a second, secret government was actually control of that nation. (“Romana Didulo” is an anagram of “I am our Donald”).

Sarteschi says anti-government sentiment grew during the COVID pandemic and is now capitalizing on economic worries. That is finding a receptive audience among some people, she said.

The City of Red Deer reported in 2022 that six residents were in arrears on property taxes after arguing that as Didulo followers, their assessment were bogus.

At about the same time, several supporters were themselves arrested in Peterborough, Ont. when they attempted to enact citizen’s arrests on members of that city’s police force.

Just this weekend, Didulo declared that all MNRA technology — used to develop the COVID-19 vaccines — had been outlawed by her decree, and that all practitioners could be liable to face the death penalty.

“The attraction… is that she’s selling something to people that they want,” said Sarteschi. “If you follow her (Didulo says) you have no taxes, no mortgage, no utility bills, you’ll come into a great amount of wealth, she’s closing schools and replacing them, and curing homelessness…”

“It never occurs to some people to think that to stop paying my mortgage would be wrong. They think it’s government tyranny to have them pay a mortgage, partly because she’s telling them the government is stealing from them.”

“They’re convoluted ideas that people want to be true, so people start to hate the government or the utility company… It always surprises me, that people believe she is the new government, that she’s taken over and is the queen and the commander in chief. Things have changed.

“When the bailiff comes to the door to take their house, they are shocked by that.”

“It shows you the level of belief.”

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