Despite Social Media Bans, QAnon Is Reaching Across Canada's Extreme And Fringe Movements

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

October 14, 2020



QAnon began as a wild myth built around US President Donald Trump’s cult of personality. It’s grown to a resilient and dangerous Frankenstein's monster, stitching together previously disparate conspiracy theories. QAnon-related theories have metastasized to Canada’s fringe movements, often without mention of Trump or Q at all -- part of their strategy to fly under the radar and entice otherwise well meaning people into their cult.

When veteran and Canadian Rangers member Corey Hurren was arrested after he drove his truck through the gates of Rideau Hall, he carried more with him than just firearms and a letter for the prime minister -- he brought us all a warning. QAnon is here and it’s dangerous.

His Instagram accounts contained telltale signs of QAnon beliefs, including tags with the movement’s most common slogan -- “where we go one we go all” -- in its abbreviated form “WWG1WGA.”

QAnon or just Q, is the name of an anonymous poster on an internet imageboard. The individual was only verifiable by their unique login and in three years left over 4,000 messages across three different online image boards -- 4chan, 8chan, and now 8kun. Some of these notes are cryptic, vague, and terse, while others are long and specific, all allegedly contain information about the president’s war against the “Deep State.” 

On October 28, 2017, on 4chan’s infamous /pol/ board, Q revealed themselves to the world for the first time: 

HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @ 12:01am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur. US M’s will conduct the operation while NG activated. Proof check: Locate a NG member and ask if activated for duty 10/30 across most major cities.

This virgin “Q-drop,” implying the imminent arrest of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC), the first of numerous other events that have yet to materialize, never slowed the growth of the mythology around Q, an alleged agent with insider knowledge of the deepest workings of the government. Even the name Q is rumoured among followers to signify their high level of security clearance within the US Department of Energy.

This ever changing cacophony of paranoid ideas has still managed to fashion itself into an Infowarrior’s Rosetta Stone, absorbing other conspiracy theories into one overarching narrative. This is how Q has spread outside the United States. Here in Canada, Trudeau, the Liberals, and journalists have become proximate targets for QAnon followers who believe they are part of the global satanist pedophile ring.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that Canada consumed the third most amount of QAnon content behind the US and the UK, and followed by Australia, and Germany.

“On average the US accounted for 89.5% of mentions of Q-related hashtags from October 2017 to October 2019,” the ISD wrote in a report. “However, in the last eight months this has dropped to 87%, suggesting that the conspiracy theory is spreading and taking hold internationally.”

The language and symbols associated with the movement have appeared among wellness practitioners, biker-style hate groups, anti-mask protestors, and vaccine deniers; small groups of anons incorporate aliens and a much larger percentage work in a Christian influence. In the US, this neapolitan of different paranoid doctrines even has its own church

No matter the particular sect of Q, there are a few common beliefs, including the coming “storm,” an event that will see global change as a crackdown eliminates the corrupt leaders of the world. There is also almost always The Cabal. Made up of a collection of satan worshiping, pedophile, pedo-cannibal elite, these “globalists” have been executing a plan to dismantle the power of America -- and general liberal democracy -- while also harvesting a life-sustaining chemical from children’s brains, sometimes even utilizing underground tunnels to do so. Believed members of The Cabal range from Bill Clinton and Bill Gates to Tom Hanks and Queen Elizebeth. George Soros, a Jewish currency trader and billionaire, long at the centre of a variety of financial, New World Order, and blatantly antisemitic conspiracy theories, has been cast once against as a puppet master. He was even mentioned by name in the second Q drop.  

The Reply/All podcast developed an extremely compelling theory as to the identity of Q, but ultimately whoever the one or many people that make up the 17th letter of the alphabet may not matter. Their following has built a perpetually moving and participatory culture that may not stop without its prophet. 

Legitimate concerns about human trafficking, authoritarianism, and pedophilia are true points of entry for new followers, but the ideology reduces crimes like child prostitution and the misdeeds of the powerful into a set of cartoonish archetypes of a malicious and ubiquitous deep state conspiracy. Through this lens, everything from the investigations into the Trump administration to Black Lives Matter protests are all part of one larger sinister plan to destabilize democracy. 

The narratives echoed in QAnon are not just found in contemporary conspiracy theories. Its root theory echoes the antisemitic medieval canard of Blood Libel, a long-standing accusation that Jews kidnap Christian children to drink their blood. It also follows, as has been pointed out by multiple commentators, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fictitious piece of anti-Jewish propaganda that was written in the early 1900s in Russia. Claiming to be the minutes from over two dozen meetings of the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland, it recounts a plot by Jewish people to conquer Europe through brainwashing, reeducation, control of the media, and more themes that are mirrored or outright plagiarized into QAnon, supplanting Jews with “globalists.” 

“The vast majority of QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories have nothing to with antisemitism,” according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Semitism Globally report. However, it points out followers often refer to “Israel, Jews, Zionists, or George Soros” as boogeymen aligned with criminal Democrats to oppose Trump.

It’s dangerous. QAnon believers have also been tied to multiple acts of violence, including hundreds of migrants held at gunpoint on the US-Mexico border, the firebombing of a Minnesota mosque, an attempted firebombing of a women’s health center by an Illinois militia, and a man blocking traffic with an armored vehicle near the Hoover Dam, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

In Canada, when Corey Hurren, according to the RCMP, “breached the main pedestrian entrance” of Rideau Hall, the governor general’s official residence and the temporary home of the Trudeau family, with multiple weapons, most people had never heard of the theory that put him behind the wheel.  

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Qanada

While various American political figures have come out supporting the philosophy, QAnon has remained largely outside mainstream politics and discourse in Canada, though not completely. 

In October, Press Progress published a report tying a candidate for The Saskatchewan Party to social media posts expressing support for COVID-19 and QAnon conspiracy theories. Daryl Cooper quickly resigned his position, but told Global News it was primarily to avoid becoming a “distraction in the debate about the important issues facing our province," adding he had done nothing wrong. 

PPC Leader Maxime Bernier also drew scrutiny when he tweeted out a video by Amazing Polly, a popular QAnon YouTube channel based in Ontario. Polly has since been shut down on YouTube as part of a large sweep of prominent Q accounts across major tech platforms. Polly  vowed on Twitter to continue uploading to alternate platforms. 

Also caught up in the bans was Alexis Cossette-Trudel, host of a popular French language Q-based YouTube channel. According to the CBC, Radio Quebec had over 120,000 subscribers when the platform removed the account for "repeatedly violating our community guidelines regarding COVID-19 misinformation." This followed the show also being banned on Facebook.

The country does appear to be free of any single large QAnon group, for now. Where Q is taking root is in Canada's overgrown fringes, already associated with anti-immigrant, antisemitic, anti-muslim, and anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.

Yellow Vests Canada (YVC)

The nexus point of Q in Canada appears to have been the Yellow Vest Canada movement. Vice News was the first to report the trademark images and slogans appearing at the movement’s protests as early as 2018. 

The flare up of the YVC movement saw protesters adopt the symbol of France’s working-class response to rising fuel costs and dissatisfaction with the administration of President Emmanuel Macron. However, in Canada, many of the founders of YVC were organizers and supporters of Canada’s pre-existing anti-Muslim movement. It was a re-branding that attracted a wider base of support.

YVC resulted in the United We Roll convoy, made up of a mix of aggrieved oil workers and a variety of grifters using the movement to peddle extreme and overtly racist beliefs. Capitalizing on legitimate feelings of grievance with the government, many figures who attempted to rise to prominence within the YVC ranks were quickly exposed as racists and bigots.

Dave Selvers, a Yellow Vest organizer in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was found to have been the author of a prolifically racist blog. While Selvers was ousted from the group, other members continued explicit connections to hate groups, before and after the convoy. Christopher Hayes, a man convicted of uttering threats against Trudeau online, was also found to be a member of Worldwide Coalition Against Islam and the Soldiers of Odin in the past.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network and Yellow Vests Canada Exposed documented hundreds of examples of overt racism and violent threats on YVC pages. While their momentum has slowed, protests are still held under the banner of the group, maintained by a few dedicated individuals. These remaining followers make up elements the movement always claimed not to represent. 

This is where Qanon likely found its first home in Canada. 

The largest Canadian Yellow Vest Group was recently taken off Facebook with around 100,000 members. It was previously a home for many conspiracy theories, including those that directly focused on Q. Other smaller regional groups, the largest numbering a few thousand members, claim the group was shut down.

On the streets, notable Yellow Vests push explicit references to QAnon, while many others merely adopt its language. 

 

Source: Facebook

In Edmonton, Izidor Sarvari has kept Yellow Vest Canada protests going during the pandemic. Explicit support for Trump is fairly standard occurrence, but both event’s posters have contained the signature WWG1WGA, and Sarvari has made numerous posts directly referencing the theories. He did not respond to questions sent to him by CAHN.

“George Soros funds the Democratic Party,” he wrote in a status update. “The same guy who created and funded BLM to intentionally incite race wars.”

Cody Frederickson was seen with a “WWG1WGA” shirt while part of a disruption of an anti-racism rally in Red Deer, ALberta. He often streams wearing a QAnon shirt. His online history shows he has shared a post that excuses Trump from any involvement with Jeffery Epstein, and others saying that masks in school are part of the plot to kidnap children -- “Next time someone calls me a selfish human. Think again. Take the mask off. Think about your children,” Frederickson wrote in the caption.

Source: Facebook

Save The Children

Q believers’ scale infiltration of the “Save The Children” movement and hashtag has kept them active and relevant in both the US and Canada. The innocuous phrase, initially associated with a legitimate not-for-profit organization working to help aid the victims of child sex trafficking, is just one example of how the language of actual charity is co-opted by bad actors.

Northern Guard started its own anti-pedophile group, called MAPP (Mankind Against Pedophiles and Predators). Most recently they have been lobbying in Ontario to have the sex offender registry made public and previous activities have included posting photos of known sex offenders around neighbourhoods. The Facebook page for MAPP - Ontario was recently taken down by the company. 

The MAPP national group page admins are both Northern Guard members, one of whom, Carmen Joseph, recently posted a video that begins by pointing to alleging the drag community is responsible for pedophilia and ends with connecting alleged sexual symbols in Disney movies to larger plots to sexualize children. These ideas are not unique to Q theories, but have been enjoying a resurgence.

Outside of this sphere, rallies and organizations bearing the name “Save Our Children,” or some close variant of the phrase, have popped up across the continent. Featuring prominently during anti-mask and lockdown protests, this is a space where Q is becoming more common outside of the internet. Using the heinous nature of the crimes these people claim to be working against, any opposition is seen as at least allowing pedophilia and at worst, supporting it.

Marc-André Argentino, a public scholar at Concordia University and PhD candidate who has studied the Q phenomenon recently posted about his findings using aggregate data to gather information about how these grassroots anti-trafficking groups have become spreading points for the conspiracy theory.

Using Crowdtangle, Argentino said that membership in Save The Children groups on Facebook sat at approximately 330,000 in mid-September and a week later it jumped up to 505,000 --- a 3,028.66% climb since July 2020. 

“Popular content shared in these communities is Fall Cabal, Out of Shadows, Pizzagate and Frazzeldrip videos,” Argentino wrote on Twitter. “When looking at google analytics around this content we see that (Crowdtangle) peaks and valleys match up with google analytics for web searches and YouTube searches of these terms.”

Before the save our/the children takeover, he said, traffic to this Q content had died down.

These are the spaces that support “Pizzagate” and “Pedowood” conspiracy theories that most prominent celebrities and politicians are abducting children off the street for elaborate sacrifice rituals, including the rumours of Frazzeldrip, the title of an alleged snuff film where Hillary Clinton murders a young girl. 

The Save Our Children Vancouver Facebook page’s most recent post at time of writing includes mention of hidden tunnels, while photographs from events feature signs referencing adrenochrome and kidnappings. The number of people the Vancouver organization has been able to muster on their own is modest, but like groups in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Quebec City and across Canada, they have found the easiest way to swell protest attendance is by glomming on with other agitators, and most recently, that’s the anti-mask crowd. 

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Canada’s anti-mask space is Q’s home in Canada

Some of the most fertile soil for QAnon in Canada during the pandemic has been among the anti-lockdown and anti-mask movements that have continually sprung up around the country. Public demonstrations against anti-lockdown and rejections of public health orders for face coverings have moved far beyond criticising the government’s response to COVID-19, as the rallies are now places where a variety of conspiracy theories converge. 

This is where QAnon followers can get a little murky politically. The allegiance to Trump and categorization of movements for racial strife as being an orchestrated event, makes it easily relegated as part of far-right conspiracies, but it has evolved into something far more nuanced. There are believers on all sides of the political spectrum.

Many of these non-traditional Qers appear to be coming from the existing anti-vaccination movement, which dovetails nicely into the fears around government health prescriptions and the pandemic. Numerous organizers have emerged to capitalize on the crisis, including Ryan Kulbaba, organizer of the March To Unmask, who led followers without face coverings through BC grocery stores. There’s also Tara Novak, an anti-vaccination advocate who has made posts accusing Steven Colbert of abusing children with the hashtag Pizzagate and multiple photographs of celebrities holding their hands in the shape of a triangle, an alleged illuminati symbol. Whether Kulbaba and Novak are Q followers or not is immaterial, as they have become antennas for his message.

The unifying property of the QAnon conspiracy theory is the key to its staying power. By branching out into other contemporary myths like Pizzagate and George Soros, all of which predate Q in conspiracy culture, and constantly updating with new Q-drops, it can pivot as attention wanes. Anti-vaccination advocates can teach others about population control, while Christian fundamentalists instruct on satanist plots. Ultra-nationalists see communist plots in anti-racist protests, and so on. 

Q’s venom can reach across ideologies, movements, and borders. The Cabal is by its very nature international and mostly unknowable. The breadcrumb trail of vaugities is a path that leads in all directions.


This is part of a series of articles and investigations into trends and new developments among Canada’s hate movements. We would like to thank an anonymous donor and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations for supporting this project.