British Columbia’s minister of public safety Mike Farnworth has issued a statement condemning the attack on the Coastal GasLink site.
“The RCMP is conducting a full investigation into this egregious criminal activity that could have led to serious injury or loss of life,” Farnworth said.
“The police report indicates that the workers’ camp was attacked in the middle of the night by unknown assailants wielding axes. 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.
UPDATE 5:20 p.m.
The company building a pipeline through Northern B.C. that was violently attacked on Wednesday night called the incident a “highly planned and dangerous unprovoked assault.”
Coastal GasLink says about 20 masked attackers wearing camouflage surrounded and attacked Coastal GasLink workers near the Morice River drill pad site off the Marten Forest Service Road.
The site is the location of the former blockade and opposition camp last year that lasted 59 days.
“This coordinated and criminal attack from multiple directions threatened the lives of several workers. In one of the most concerning acts, an attempt was made to set a vehicle on fire while workers were inside,” the company said in a statement.
“The attackers also wielded axes, swinging them at vehicles and through a truck’s window. Flare guns were also fired at workers. Workers fled the site for their own safety and remain shaken by this violent incident.”
There were no physical injuries to workers.
Coastal GasLink says the attackers used grinders to cut locks to access the construction site and vandalized heavy equipment and trailers, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Equipment hydraulic and fuel lines were also cut, causing leaks.
“Damage and environmental impacts are still being assessed. We are working to contain and clean up the environmental damage caused by the attackers. We also understand the attackers felled trees, placed tire spikes and lit fires on roads in an effort to impede access to the remote worksite,” the company statement continued.
The company is encouraging a full police investigation, which is already underway.
“As this situation evolves, we remain in close contact with our prime contractor and workforce. Our work is lawful, authorized, fully permitted and has the unprecedented support of local and Indigenous communities and agreements in place with all 20 elected First Nation councils across the 670 km route,” the company said.
Coastal GasLink is almost 60 per cent complete.
ORIGINAL 4:20 p.m.
Houston RCMP are investigating reports of violence against employees of Coastal GasLink as well as with attending police officers.
RCMP said in a press release that on Thursday, Feb. 17 shortly after midnight, police were called to the Marten Forest Service Road after Coastal Gas Link (CGL) security reported acts of violence at their work site.
It was reported approximately 20 people, some armed with axes, were attacking security guards and smashing their vehicle windows.
It was initially reported that some CGL employees were trapped, but all had managed to safely leave the area.
Upon police attendance at the 41 km mark, the roadway had been blocked with downed trees, tar-covered stumps, wire, boards with spikes in them and fires had been lit throughout the debris.
As police worked their way through the debris and traps, several people threw smoke bombs and flaming sticks at police, injuring one officer.
At the 43 km mark, an old school bus blocked the road. No one was located in this area and with the assistance of CGL, the bus was cleared from the road and police continued on.
When police arrived at the drill pad at the 63 km mark, they found significant damage had been done to heavy machinery, fencing and portable buildings.
Police did not encounter any further blockades or protestors as they made their way to the drill pad nor did they locate anyone at the site.
“This is a very troubling escalation in violent criminal activity that could have resulted in serious injury or death. This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion dollar path of destruction,” said Chief Supt. Warren Brown.
“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.”
RCMP devote 40 investigators to attack at Coastal GasLink work site
Attackers disabled lighting and video-surveillance equipment during their raid on a remote Coastal GasLink work site in northwestern B.C. and commandeered heavy equipment to inflict damage estimated to be in the millions of dollars, the company said Friday.
Video and photos captured before the equipment was disabled in the attack have been turned over to RCMP.
Police are trying to identify suspects among the reported 20 to 40 individuals involved in the apparently co-ordinated attack that happened on Thursday, just after midnight.
RCMP Chief Supt. Warren Brown, commander of the B.C. northern district, admitted it will be a challenge as they were disguised and masked when they arrived at the site on foot.
“Our people were terrorized during this violent incident,” said Kent Wilfur, a vice-president with Coastal GasLink, the company building the 670-kilometre pipeline intended to feed the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas plant being built in Kitimat.
The project has the support of elected First Nation councils along the route, but is opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who say they are the guardians of their traditional territory.
Supporters have staged blockades near the location of Thursday’s attacks and heavily armed RCMP teams have been enforcing an injunction against the actions.
Politicians lined up Friday to condemn the attack, in which nine contract workers on the night shift were threatened by masked assailants, some wielding axes, who ordered them to leave and then hit their vehicles as they fled.
“The attack this week on a CGL work site is reprehensible,” Premier John Horgan said in a statement. “The damage and destruction are disturbing to all British Columbians.”
Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen, who represents the region, said in a tweet that he was “incredibly troubled by the violent and threatening attack,” and that “those responsible must be brought to account.”
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the violence disturbing.
“I want to make it clear that no matter what your cause, or your views are, on any subject matter, there is never any justification for violence toward your fellow Canadians,” including those in law enforcement.
Brown said he had 40 investigators in the area Friday. They were canvassing camps and rural homes along the road to find out if anyone saw anything or had also faced threats.
“We don’t know who they are and I would like to say they’re not protesters, because this is really quite an amped-up level of violence from what we’ve seen any time before in and around here,” Brown said. “This is not about enforcing a court injunction. This is about a specific criminal act that happened on Feb. 17.”
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the pipeline sparked rallies and rail blockades across Canada in 2020. Coastal GasLink obtained an injunction against blockades and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued the company an eviction notice.
The Canadian Press reported that hereditary Chief Na’moks refused to comment on Friday.
“We simply don’t have enough information to make any comments, all we know is no arrests or charges, and harassment of our camps continue,” he said in a text message. “Nothing more than that until we get more information as well.”
Brown addressed speculation that has appeared online that the incident was “a ruse on behalf of the industry to point fingers,” which he characterized as “asinine,” irresponsible and wrong.
“We’ve got a large contingency of police in there and we have that many (the 40 investigators) in there investigating — not policing protests, not policing civil injunctions, (but) policing the criminal acts that happened on the 17th.”
Brown revealed more about the threats and violence responding RCMP officers faced in the early hours of Thursday.
Officers responding to calls for help from the pipeline workers came across a banner stretched across the road that had been lit on fire, then trees that had been felled as roadblocks.
And as officers got out of vehicles to clear them away using chainsaws, assailants at the tree line lit other trees on fire and threw lit torches, smoke bombs and objects at police while taunting them verbally
“When the police gave chase, it appears as though they might have lulled us into a trap,” Brown said, as one officer who gave chase stepped on a stick spiked with long nails that went through a boot.
The few officers on site chose not to pursue the assailants further “out of their own safety,” Brown said.
Other Western premiers called for the federal government to take a more aggressive approach to the situation in B.C.
Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe bluntly challenged the prime minister on social media to respond to the incident at the Coastal GasLink site.
“Will the Trudeau government now seize the bank accounts of the foreign-funded eco-terrorists responsible for this violence?” tweeted Kenney, referring to the financial provisions of the Emergencies Act that permit authorities to target donations made to illegal convoy activities.
“If the Trudeau government is set on using the Emergencies Act to end blockades, then they should also use it to follow the money, seize the associated vehicles and provide all the resources necessary to ensure those illegally acting here are arrested for damaging and blocking this critical export infrastructure,” the premier of Saskatchewan tweeted.
Concerning the Attack on the Coastal GasLink Worksite on Marten Forest Service Road
What appears to be a highly effective act of sabotage carried out by Indigenous land defenders: cue the conspiracy theorists…
And some aren’t even theorizing, they assert it as fact: it was the cops, it was CGL… Here’s a theory: the attack was carried out by Indigenous people who, in the cold dead of night, set out on a mission to sabotage the CGL pipeline.
They carried out an audacious and complex attack that I would imagine started with getting the security guards away from vehicles and buildings. At some point after the security guards had fled, blockades and counter-vehicle devices were put in place on the only road leading to the site, delaying police response probably by hours. In that time the warriors carried out millions of dollars in sabotage.
Considering all this, I think it’s important to acknowledge that this may just be what it appears to be: an attack carried out by Indigenous warriors.
I’ve seen people posting about a bomb attack the RCMP carried out in Alberta in the 1990s as proof of cops carrying out fake attacks. This bombing was part of the police investigation of Wiebo Ludwig and his campaign against the oil and gas industry. The action was intended to entrap Ludwig. With cooperation from the oil company, the police blew up an abandoned, unused shed. It was in no way a major act of sabotage, in contrast to what is now being reported in Wet’suwet’en territory. It was insignificant compared to the actual sabotage that was occurring and for which Ludwig was widely suspected… and for which there was a virtual media blackout by the oil companies and RCMP who did not want the practice of sabotage to spread.
One of the problems with this conspiracy mongering is that is undermines the effectiveness of this action. The more it spreads and festers the more people question if it was a genuine act of resistance or not. Who does this inspire? In whose interests are acts of Indigenous resistance diminished rather than promoted? I also believe this conspiracy mongering demoralizes those who carried out the action (and who are now being hunted by police).