Skip to main content

Technicians repair a cell tower after a fire that police are calling suspicious Monday May 4, 2020 in Piedmont, Que. There have been fires at two other cell towers in the area in the past few days.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Police are investigating three suspicious blazes at cellphone towers in Quebec after dozens of acts of vandalism across Europe believed to be spurred by anti-5G conspiracy theories.

Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said he is “deeply troubled” by the incidents, given how essential mobile networks have become in allowing Canadians to work, learn and stay connected with others during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now more than ever we understand connectivity is a necessity to our day to day lives,” Mr. Bains said in a statement.

Two fires broke out at cell towers in separate towns – Piedmont and Prévost – northwest of Montreal early Monday morning after a similar incident in Laval early Friday. All three are under investigation by Quebec police, who say it is too soon to determine whether these are acts of vandalism by anti-5G protesters. More than 20 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Laval on Friday because of fears that the tower could collapse.

Story continues below advertisement

BCE Inc.'s Bell Canada owns the Piedmont tower and has some equipment located on the Prévost tower, which is owned by Rogers Communications Inc. Neither site was being used to provide 5G service, the companies said. Bell is using temporary cell sites to restore service to the affected areas as it works to repair the damage, spokesperson Marc Choma said in an e-mail.

Rogers, which also owns the Laval tower, said it is working to restore service for the “very small number of customers” affected.

“We are deeply disappointed that some of Canada’s critical infrastructure may have been deliberately targeted,” Rogers spokesperson Meghan Marchand said in a statement. “This is especially troubling at a time when Canadians and emergency services are relying on our networks to keep them connected during this public health crisis.”

The RCMP said it is aware that police in Quebec are investigating vandalism to cell towers and that it’s prepared to assist if needed. “The RCMP continues to work with police, government and industry partners to protect Canada’s critical infrastructure,” spokesperson Catherine Fortin said in an e-mail.

There have been numerous incidents of arson and vandalism targeting cellphone masts and other telecom infrastructure in Europe in recent weeks, which some politicians have attributed to baseless conspiracy theories linking the spread of the coronavirus to fifth-generation wireless technology.

The theories – which have been amplified by celebrities such as actor Woody Harrelson, singer Keri Hilson and British rapper MIA – falsely claim that the radio waves used for 5G either spread the virus or weaken the immune system, thus making people more susceptible to COVID-19. Scientists and public-health authorities have said there is no evidence to support these assertions, nor to suggest that 5G is harmful to human health.

GSM Association, an organization that represents mobile carriers worldwide, has identified 61 arson attacks in Britain, 16 in the Netherlands, three in Ireland and isolated attacks in Belgium, Italy, Cyprus and Sweden stemming from disinformation around 5G technology, according to a situation report obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Story continues below advertisement

The report highlights incidents where critical infrastructure has been put at risk, including an attack on a base station that was having its capacity upgraded to serve a hospital, and outlines numerous cases of harassment against telecom workers, including death threats against a spokesperson for the Dutch telecoms co-ordinator.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said conspiracy theories linking 5G wireless technology to the coronavirus pandemic have been widely debunked and have no scientific basis.

“These incidents are under investigation," the CWTA said in an e-mail. “If it is determined that vandalism was involved, such acts are both senseless and dangerous, and only serve to deprive Canadians of critical communications services during already difficult times."

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies