Followers of a QAnon influencer who's convinced some Canadians she’s the true Queen of Canada are saying their utilities are being cut off because they were told by their sovereign that they no longer had to pay bills.
One woman has repeatedly told her fellow QAnon Queen followers she’s “stopped paying hydro, water, natural gas, property taxes, line of credit, and my credit cards.” She pushes hard on her fellow true believers to join her in not paying their bills and chastising those who continue to pay.
“The more who do it, the quicker we can be free of enslavement,” she wrote on one of the group’s Telegram channels. “Those still living in fear are making it harder to get out. Don’t be afraid, because we’re in this together.”
Many, many others have posted that they, too, have stopped paying their bills after hearing that Romana Didulo—a QAnon influencer who has them convinced she’s running Canada behind the scenes—made a decree that electricity is free. Several have posted their power has been shut off or that they were on the verge of having it shut off and relented to finally paying.
"Dear (Queen Romana), when will the service companies stop shutting off our services for nonpayment?" one follower asked Didulo recently. "I just had my water supply shut off today in Stratford, Ontario."
Didulo, a Victoria, B.C.–based woman in her 50s or 60s, had little to no public profile until about two years ago. The short, soft-spoken Filipino immigrant has since rocketed to popularity over the last two years—thanks to other QAnon (a big-tent conspiracy movement that revolves around a secret war against a cabal of pedophilic elites) personalities giving her far-fetched claims of essentially running Canada from the shadows a giant boost. Since being "confirmed" by other QAnon influencers, her reach has grown to include over 70,000 followers on Telegram, many of whom follow her in real life.
Didulo is currently on a crowd-funded tour of Canada in a rented RV with several of her followers. The group makes frequent “meet and greets” in towns across the country and has drawn crowds as large as 50.
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Didulo has issued several “royal decrees” on her Telegram page, some regarding utility bills. The critical ones are “Decree 24,” claiming that electricity is now free in Canada; “Decree 15,” which abolishes income tax; and “Decree 23,” which makes water bills illegal. Another decree, number 79, reverts the price of rent, housing, and propane back to 1955 levels. Other decrees issued by Didulo are that critical race theory is illegal in Canada (this was her very first decree, in fact) and that the age of consent was changed to 24—which sparked an outcry from her followers.
The bill-payment claims are causing direct harm to her followers, with many saying in their group chat that they've racked up thousands of dollars of bills. Many of Didulo's followers are vulnerable people, including seniors on fixed incomes, who could face steep consequences for these decisions. A page created by Didulo which allows her followers to ask her questions is filled with questions about bill payments.
"Dear Queen Romana I received a 24-hour notice for the power bill. Should I make a payment? Or will it be shut off?" reads one.
"Queen Romana please What do I say to the City of Red Deer trying to shut off my water on Monday," reads another. Some said that when they reach out for help about the situation, they’re mocked for their beliefs.
Christine Sarteschi, an extremist researcher who specializes in sovereign citizens and their pseudo-legal trickery, has been keeping a close eye on Didulo and her followers in recent months. Sarteschi says the prevalent discussions about followers’ utilities are disconcerting.
"A couple of times a week you see somebody who is posting about something like 'please help me, my utilities are going to get cut off' or something along those lines where they're experiencing some type of negative consequences from attempting to follow her decrees,” said Sarteschi. “It looks like the (bill payment) decree is the one I see mentioned the most in terms of people being harmed.”
One man who followed Didulo’s decree briefly spoke to VICE World News about his decision to stop paying his bills. He said he ceased payment four months ago and has yet to face any negative consequences. He said he’s not worried and that ”the ones who should be worried is the utilities companies, failure to comply with Queen Romana Royal Decrees carries a heavy penalty.” VICE News reached out to numerous people who said they have ceased paying their bills, but we received no response—like in many conspiracy cultures, this community tends to believe the media are corrupt and evil and are told not to speak to them.
If the followers’ claims and documents they post online are to be believed, the consequences for some extend further than just strongly worded email. Recently, the group panicked when a popular user had their power disconnected. The user, a person who posted regularly, had recently gone quiet. The group rallied around her.
“Joanna's power and water supply have been cut off,” a follower wrote on April 20. “Can we get a bunch of We The People to call and email her power company to inform them of the new laws, decrees, and let them know they are committing criminal offences against We The People!”
The group got together the emails of the heads of B.C. Hydro (who cut off the woman’s power) and sent them a deluge of emails about Didulo’s decrees and demanding they turn their friend's power back on. This tactic of sending emails about Didulo’s power to utility companies seems to be the group’s primary way of fighting back.
“If you supply the utility company's email address and your full name, I'll try to do whatever I can to help you get your utilities put back on,” one woman wrote to someone who said their power was shut off.
Didulo has told her followers that “those sending the bills are robots,” so a few are posting actual images of the threatening messages they’re getting from bill collectors and electricity and hydro providers as trophies. One email sent to a woman from a lawyer said she had “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument in the nature of a sham debt elimination scheme.”
One of the things experts have long said is that being involved in these fringe communities can come at great personal cost. This includes the alienation of a person from loved ones and financial consequences. For one fan the decree led her to both.
“I stopped (paying) Hydro three months ago. I got phone reminders, a reminder by mail and an actual person called my husband. He does not follow QR and he was not pleased. Told me to pay the hydro bill,” they wrote. “I want to help collapse the government not my marriage so I paid.”
Sarteschi said that she thinks the appeal of Didulo is the promises that she makes. That the promise of no more taxes or debt is an intoxicating offer for some people. For these people, who get so wrapped up in these ideas they may have to "learn the hard way.”
"Until they get their utility shut off, they may not even realize that it's not real," she added.
Some who posted that they’d stopped paying their bills and faced consequences left the movement and turned on Didulo. A few of them have joined an online group whose stated goal is to ruin Didulo. But still, every day her followers report not paying their bills and gleefully brag about the notices they're racking up.
“Is some help coming soon?” one of her followers asked in early May. “The warning to stock up and telling us not to pay utilities etc is really difficult. I’m scared I am going to get cut off and won’t have money to reconnect!”
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