The letter Q has become a symbol of the banners of the rallies of Donald Trump, president of the United States.
Also appears on stickers, t-shirts and flag.
So much paraphernalia reflects the popularity of QAnon, a group that promotes conspiracy theories and that, could even soon have a representative on Capitol Hill.
Canada, the neighbor to the north, navigates in different political waters, more prone to tolerance and consensus.
However, it has not been reason enough to avoid the presence of QAnon in its territory.
Born in October 2017 in online forums frequented by the American extreme right, QAnon has set the bar very high regarding nonsense and falsehoods.
An individual named Q - the followers believe that he is an official with access to the greatest arcana - claims to have information about the existence of a global network of satanic pedophiles made up, among others, by members of the Democratic Party, Hollywood stars and millionaires.
In addition, this malevolent group runs a "deep state" (with support from government personnel and the media) to take over the White House.
However - and here QAnon supporters sigh in relief - Trump is fighting a secret war against these criminals whose final destination will be the cells of Guantánamo.
QAnon soon gained a following in Canada;
first in the catacombs of the internet;
later, in social networks.
At the end of 2018, hundreds of people protested in several Canadian cities (mainly in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) wearing yellow vests, emblem of the French movement that bears that name.
Their criticisms were directed at the government of Justin Trudeau, whom they accuse of not supporting the oil industry with sufficient vigor and of being lax on immigration issues.
Some protesters displayed the Q of QAnon, as well as WWG1WGA (initials in English: "where we go one, we all go", one of their best known slogans).
For the first time, these symbols were strolling through the streets of Canada.
Edwin Hodge, a professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, studies conspiracy theories and far-right groups.
For Hodge, one aspect that explains QAnon's presence on Canadian soil is the close cultural and digital contact between the United States and Canada, despite obvious political differences.
Hodge also claims that many conspiracy movements emphasize narratives related to alleged projects on a global scale.
"These movements, especially adaptable ones like QAnon, retain their appeal even when transplanted to other countries," he says.
One of the most striking posters of the Canadian “yellow vests” -decorated with the Q- indicated: “Trudeau has sold us to the UN”, in reference to the Global Compact for Migration in Marrakech, signed by Canada, but without legal ties and that it does not imply changes in migration policies.
The most significant element of the Canadian supporters of QAnon consists in associating the liberal government (also at times with opposition parties and provincial authorities) with a supposed world agenda designed under the shadows.
Thus, Justin Trudeau is considered an ally of the "deep state", in the same way as Angela Merkel.
But Trudeau, according to followers of QAnon, also protects those pedophile circles that practice Satanism and is behind the death of Barry and Honey Sherman, the millionaires murdered in December 2017 in Toronto.
Roxane Martel-Perron, educational director of the Center for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization in Montreal, comments: “There is a strong interest in QAnon because of the alleged secret plans of the governments, but it has also inspired unfounded allegations about pedophilia.
It is enough to remember the case of harassment in social networks to a cafe in the Charlevoix region ”.
Martel-Perron refers to an establishment in the town of Baie-Saint-Paul (Quebec) that last August received messages loaded with anger, since its logo is supposedly associated with pedophile groups.
The pandemic has taken QAnon in Canada to another level.
“Trudeau wants to impose communism.
The restrictions due to covid-19 have nothing to do with the virus. ”, Appears on the wall of a Facebook group.
Various demonstrations against the use of the mask have taken place in Canadian cities (Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg).
Several of the attendees have carried the Q and other references to QAnon.
Members of extreme right-wing groups (such as Soldados de Odín and La Manada) have also participated in these protests.
These groups show their rejection of current migration policies and multiculturalism, in discourses that border on xenophobia;
they define themselves as "patriots" and "defenders of freedom."
His sympathy for QAnon is not surprising.
Edwin Hodge comments: “The pandemic exacerbated the kinds of psychological and sociological stressors that incline some people toward conspiratorial thinking.
There is a great deal of evidence that these movements and beliefs grow during times of social, political and economic upheaval like the ones we are experiencing.
Hodge stresses that even though QAnon existed before the coronavirus, it grew with confinement.
"Because the pandemic has kept people at home and in line for a long time, the scope of the movement has increased," he adds.
“It is a fertile time for conspiracy theories.
Many people did not know QAnon a year ago.
It is evident that it has gained visibility, ”says Martel-Perron.
On July 2, Corey Hurren (a native of Manitoba) was arrested after crashing his truck over a fence that gave access to Trudeau's residence.
The prime minister and his family were elsewhere that day.
Hurren, whose social media accounts have posted Q theory posts, was carrying multiple firearms.
In May 2019, the FBI designated QAnon as an insider terrorist threat.
According to a report by the Quebec police, between March 15 and September 15, this security body received 300 reports of threats via the Internet to deputies of the provincial assembly (53 in the same period of 2019).
The legislative body unanimously adopted a motion to denounce these messages, as well as to recognize that the authorities must act against the rise of conspiracy theories.
According to the
, some of the authors of these threats have shared QAnon content on different platforms.
Hodge believes that the link between QAnon in Canada and the violence remains "relatively rare."
“This does not mean that it does not exist or that it will not grow, but the movement is more present, for the moment, online.
We should be concerned about the relative ease with which QAnon is spreading in the country;
it is proof that Canadians are just as susceptible to fringe beliefs as Americans, ”he says.
“We have found that conspiracy theories can in several cases be part of the violent radicalization process.
That is why it is necessary to work on prevention ”, concludes Martel-Perron.