Two arrested after two more Quebec cell towers go up in flames

Quebec provincial police have identified two suspects after a sixth and seventh cell tower in the greater Montreal region were set on fire. 

Jessica Kallas, a 25-year-old Laval resident and 28-year-old Justin-Philippe Pauley of Ste-Adèle were taken into custody on Thursday morning. 

Quebec provincial police said the pair may be linked to the series of suspicious tower fires that have been reported in the region in under a week. 

“They’re presently in custody and being interrogated by our investigators,” Sûreté du Québec (SQ) Sgt. Louis-Philippe Bibeau told CTV News Thursday morning. 

The suspects were arrested in Saint-Adèle around 1:30 a.m. following reports of cell tower fires in Saint-Jérôme and Blainville. 

First observations in both cases seem to indicate minor damage to the towers. 

Local police services have handed the investigations over to the SQ. The major crimes squad in Mascouche will be handling all the cases. 

On Wednesday morning, a tower was damaged by a fire in Laval’s Fabreville area. Two days earlier, on Monday, two other telecommunications towers were set on fire a few minutes apart, in the towns of Prévost and Piedmont. Three days earlier, on Friday, a tower in Laval’s Chomedey area was set on fire.

This string of incidents comes as conspiracy theories link the fifth generation (5G) mobile communications network to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus around the world. False information about 5G and COVID-19 has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media – they claim that new 5G installations created the virus.

5G is a technology that cell phone companies are gradually rolling out around the world. It’s much more powerful than its 3G and 4G predecessors. 

Many say the technology has adverse effects on health, even outside of the COVID-19 theories. But the World Health Organization said after much testing, there’s no proof of a link between cellular technology and health problems. 

“To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies," the organization's website reads. 

None of the damaged towers in the past six days have housed 5G technology. In fact, telecommunications companies in other cities around the world where towers have been set on fire have said that more often than not, the towers are used for 3G and 4G networks.

"There is no fact-based scientific evidence that supports any connection whatsoever between 5G technology and the spread of the Coronavirus," Telus Communications Inc., who has equipment on the first tower torched in Laval, said in a statement to CTV News on Friday. "All electronic emissions in Canada are governed by Safety Code 6, which sets limits for safe human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic energy and is overseen by Industry Canada and Health Canada."

Though the cases near Montreal have been turned over to provincial police, the RCMP said it is ready to assist if necessary. 

“The RCMP continues to work with police, government and industry partners to protect Canada's critical infrastructure,” the RCMP’s Catherine Fortin said in an emailed statement to CTV News on Monday. “Investigators are constantly assessing threats and risks and are implementing the necessary measures to protect the safety of the public.” 

Federal ministers, including Navdeep Bains, the Minister Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness took to Twitter to express concerns about the recent vandalism in Quebec. 

Concerned to hear reports of cellphone towers being vandalized in Canada. I would like to remind all Canadians that vandalizing these towers is a serious criminal offence, and severe criminal penalties will be brought against those found breaking the law. https://t.co/eMbB7mpnPV

— Bill Blair (@BillBlair) May 5, 2020

With files from The Canadian Press.

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