HOUSTON, B.C. – Mounties in northern British Columbia are investigating what they say was a violent confrontation between a group of about 20 people and Coastal GasLink employees at a work site for the pipeline.
RCMP says in a news release they were called to the area early Thursday following reports that a group of people, some allegedly armed with axes, attacked security guards and smashed vehicle windows.
Police say when they tried to reach the work site they were stopped by a downed tree, tar-covered stumps, boards with spikes sticking out of them and fires along the forest service road.
When officers tried to work their way through the debris, police say several people threw “smoke bombs” and flaming sticks, injuring one officer.
When police made it to the site, they say they found “significant damage” to heavy machinery, other equipment and portable buildings.
Coastal GasLink called the violence concerning, saying in a news release there was an attempt by some of the attackers to set a vehicle on fire while workers were inside, but no one was injured.
The company says the confrontation occurred in the same spot where a blockade protesting the pipeline’s construction was set up last year for about two months.
RCMP Chief Supt. Warren Brown says in a statement that the escalation in violence is “very troubling.”
“This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion-dollar path of destruction,” says Brown, the North District commander.
“While we respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest in Canada, we cannot tolerate this type of extreme violence and intimidation.”
The pipeline has been at the centre of several protests and arrests, as Coastal GasLink obtained an injunction against blockades and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued the company an eviction notice.
In February 2020, First Nations and supporters across the country blocked major railways and highways in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs.
Construction on the 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline began in 2019, and is expected to be completed next year.