Vancouver, February 18: Police near an under-construction liquefied natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. are investigating after what they say was a violent attack by roughly 20 people overnight.
Photos provided in a news release from Houston RCMP show extensive damage to vehicles and buildings at the Coastal GasLink work site.
Mounties said they were called to the Marten Forest Service Road shortly after midnight Thursday by Coastal GasLink security.
It was reported (that) approximately 20 people, some armed with axes, were attacking security guards and smashing their vehicle windows,” police said in their release.
“It was initially reported that some CGL employees were trapped, but all had managed to safely leave the area.”
Officers found the forest service road blocked with “downed trees, tar-covered stumps, wire, boards with spikes in them and fires” at the 41-kilometer mark, according to RCMP.
Police said, “several people” threw smoke bombs and “fire-lit sticks” at officers as they made their way through the debris. One officer was injured, Mounties said.
The road was blocked again at the 43-kilometer mark, this time with an old school bus, according to RCMP.
“When police arrived at the drill pad at the (63-kilometre) mark, they found significant damage had been done to heavy machinery, fencing, and portable buildings,” RCMP said. “Police did not encounter any further blockades or protesters as they made their way to the drill pad, nor did they locate anyone at the site.”
No one was arrested in the incident, and police did not indicate that there were any suspects Thursday.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline has been a focal point of protests by Indigenous land defenders and those aligned with hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
The pipeline is being constructed on the nation’s traditional territory, and while its owner has agreements with elected Indigenous governments along the route, many hereditary chiefs oppose the project.
The conflict prompted nationwide blockades in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en protesters in February 2020.
It was unclear Thursday afternoon whether the violence at the site had been perpetrated either by or on behalf of protesters opposed to the pipeline, though RCMP described it as an escalation of the conflict.
“This is a very troubling escalation in violent criminal activity that could have resulted in serious injury or death,” said Chief Supt. Warren Brown, north district commander for the B.C. RCMP, in the release.
“This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion-dollar path of destruction. While we respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest in Canada, we cannot tolerate this type of extreme violence and intimidation. Our investigators will work tirelessly to identify the culprits and hold them accountable for their actions.”
B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issued a statement condemning the attack Thursday evening.
“The RCMP is conducting a full investigation into this egregious criminal activity that could have led to serious injury or loss of life,” Farnworth’s statement read, in part.
“There is no excuse for such violence and intimidation. All workers deserve to be protected from harassment and harm. This destructive attack should be condemned by all in British Columbia.”
Coastal GasLink also issued a statement Thursday, describing the attack in greater detail than RCMP did.
The company alleged that the attackers had surrounded workers, at one point attempting to set a vehicle on fire while workers were inside.
“The attackers also wielded axes, swinging them at vehicles and through a truck’s window,” Coastal GasLink said. “Flare guns were also fired at workers. Workers fled the site for their own safety and remain shaken by this violent incident. Fortunately, there were no physical injuries to Coastal GasLink workers.”
The company encouraged anyone with information about the attack to contact RCMP.