Quebec duo charged in connection with cellphone tower fires

Conspiracy theorists burn 5G towers, claiming link to COVID-19
WATCH: Some conspiracy theorists are falsely linking 5G, the fifth generation of technology of wireless mobile technology, to COVID-19 outbreaks. Jeff Semple looks at what started this hoax, how it spread like wildfire on social media, and how it ignited attacks on cellphone towers.

Two people were charged with arson on Thursday 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.

READ MORE: Quebec police investigate 4 cellphone tower fires, possible link to conspiracy theory

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.

The arrests come after seven fires involving cellphone towers in areas north of Montreal over the past week, including two late Wednesday night.

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Quebec provincial police launched an investigation earlier in the week. Investigators were probing whether the fires are in any way tied to conspiracy theories about 5G technology and the novel coronavirus.

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.

READ MORE: There’s no clear proof 5G or cellphones cause cancer. Here’s why some still worry

The City of Prévost, where one of the fires took place, had even taken to social media to tell residents that the telecommunications tower did not have 5G capability.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had also tweeted about the string of fires late Wednesday before the arrests, calling them “serious criminal offences” that carry severe penalties.

“Vandalizing cellphone towers does nothing but threaten emergency services and impact the daily lives of Canadians across the country,” he wrote.

With files from the Canadian Press