NEWS
05/06/2020 12:09 EDT

Quebec Cellphone Towers Damaged As COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Grow

False narratives about 5G technology have led to attacks in Europe.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS
A cellphone tower is repaired by technicians in Piedmont, Que., after a fire was reported on Monday.

MONTREAL — The major crimes unit of Quebec’s provincial police is investigating after four cellphone towers north of Montreal were set on fire within the span of a few days.

Provincial police spokesman Marc Tessier says the latest fire occurred at a Rogers-owned tower in Laval on Tuesday morning. It’s the second fire since Friday to hit one of the company’s towers in that city.

Two other towers about 70 kilometres north of Montreal — one operated by Rogers and the other by Bell — were hit early Monday morning.

Tessier says the major crimes unit will investigate possible links between the four fires, including whether they can be traced back to people espousing conspiracy theories about 5G technology.

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

None of the Quebec towers targeted by suspected arson have 5G capabilities.

Mariepier Des Lauriers, spokeswoman for the town of Prevost, where a Rogers-operated tower was hit Monday morning, said that in recent weeks many residents brought up unfounded conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to COVID-19.

On Sunday, the small town wrote a message on its Facebook page specifying that its cellphone tower did not have 5G capability in response to numerous questions from concerned citizens.

 

A spokesperson for Rogers said the company is “thankful no one was hurt,” but cited concern that “critical infrastructure appears to have been deliberately targeted.”

The company said it was able to “optimize tower equipment in the area” to ensure service could continue.

Federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said on Twitter that he was “troubled by the reports of vandalism of Canadian cell towers.” 

As many of us are staying home, we’re relying on wireless and internet services to connect to our work, school, and loved ones. These criminal acts are completely unacceptable and threaten emergency services,” Bains wrote.

Some 50 fires targeting cell towers and other equipment have been recently reported in Britain, leading to three arrests. About 16 have been torched in the Netherlands, with attacks also reported in Ireland, Cyprus, and Belgium.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 5, 2020

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