Home Business Quebec man pleads guilty to what he accused the government of: starting forest fires

Quebec man pleads guilty to what he accused the government of: starting forest fires

by SuperiorInvest

A Quebec resident who last summer had shared conspiracy theories online suggesting the Canadian government was deliberately starting wildfires to convince people that climate change was happening has now pleaded guilty to setting more than a dozen fires. fires.

Brian Paré, 38, pleaded guilty to setting 14 fires in the Chibougamau area of ​​Quebec between May and September 2023. Last year was the worst wildfire season on record in Canada, totaling 45 million acres burned. For many days, smoke from the fires spread across North America and around the world, degrading air quality and disrupting daily life for millions of people.

Two of the fires started by Paré forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in the city of Chapais at the end of May, according to a statement by prosecutor Marie-Philippe Charron in court and reported by The Canadian Press. One of them, the Lake Cavan fire, burned more than 2,000 acres of forest and was the largest of the fires Mr Paré admitted to setting. The court hearing took place on Monday; The sentence is expected in April.

Rising global temperatures are contributing to longer fire seasons and increased lightning strikes, which were responsible for starting the most damaging Canadian fires last year.

Paré had shared posts on Facebook over the summer in which he claimed that the government was deliberately failing to control and even deliberately starting wildfires. Some of Paré’s posts also deny the existence of climate change and link the wildfires to conspiracy theories that suggest governments are manufacturing phenomena such as climate change and Covid-19 to justify new restrictions and regulations.

Paré’s posts were part of a larger wave of misinformation in the wake of the fires, following a pattern that has followed other extreme weather events such as floods, heat waves and droughts.

“All of this generated a lot of buzz and, consequently, various forms of misinformation,” said Chris Wells, an associate professor of media studies at Boston University who researches climate misinformation. “When an event like this occurs, the obvious question arises today: ‘To what extent is it related to climate change?’”

The specific type of conspiracy theory Paré shared – linking climate change and climate-related policies to governments’ ulterior motives – is also common, Dr. Wells explained. “It’s part of a broader scope of conspiratorial thinking.”

Climate change is actually contributing to worse wildfires in several ways, said Mike Flannigan, a wildfire professor at Thompson Rivers University in Canada. In addition to longer fire seasons and more lightning, warmer air also absorbs moisture from vegetation, creating more dry fuel for fires.

While the scale of the 2023 fires was “off the charts” and may not recur anytime soon, overall “we will see more years of active fires in the future than in the past,” said Dr. Flannigan.

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