Canadian Manufacturing

Quebec man and woman charged in connection with cellphone tower fires

False narratives around 5G and COVID-19 have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, leading to attacks on towers across Europe

May 8, 2020  The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Two people were charged with arson on May 7 in relation to cellphone tower fires north of Montreal.

Justin-Philippe Pauley, 28, and Jessica Kallas, 25, were arrested early in the day while aboard a vehicle in Ste-Adele, northwest of Montreal.

They are accused of setting fire to Telus cell phone towers in St-Jerome and Blainville, Que., according to the court filing. Pauley and Kallas were also charged with mischief.

Quebec provincial police spokesman Marc Tessier said the investigation is ongoing.

“They could be facing more charges, but for now they’re charged regarding the fires from last night,” Tessier said Thursday.

Provincial police say there have been seven such blazes in the past week.

A spokesman said this week that the force’s major crimes unit took over the case and will investigate possible links between the blazes, including if they can be traced back to people holding conspiracy theories about 5G technology.

False narratives around 5G — the fifth-generation technology standard for cellphone companies — and COVID-19 have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, leading to attacks on towers across Europe.

Rogers, which owns three of the targeted towers, has said none of them has 5G capabilities.

On May 6, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted about the fires.

“Vandalizing cellphone towers does nothing but threaten emergency services and impact the daily lives of Canadians across the country,” Trudeau wrote. “These recent acts are serious criminal offences and carry severe penalties.”