RCMP release video of alleged attacks at Coastal GasLink pipeline worksite
No Coastal GasLink employees were injured, police say
As RCMP continue to investigate reports of violence at a pipeline construction site in northern B.C., investigators have released video showing people, some with axes, attacking a vehicle with someone inside.
RCMP said Tuesday the video contains footage of people similarly dressed storming the Coastal GasLink (CGL) property, swinging axes at a company vehicle, spray painting a side window and setting off a suspected flare gun.
No CGL employees were injured, police said.
RCMP said they were called to Marten Forest Service Road about 60 kilometres south of Houston, B.C., shortly after midnight on Feb. 17 after CGL security reported violence at the site, where workers are helping build part of a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline.
RCMP said around 20 people allegedly attacked security guards and employees.
"So these individuals, the 20 or so masked individuals, took these employees by surprise in a very aggressive and calculated method," Chief Supt. Warren Brown told CBC Friday morning.
CGL said heavy equipment at the site was commandeered by the attackers and used to damage other equipment, and that there were "millions of dollars in damage" to machinery although they're still estimating the final cost.
RCMP also said attackers used machinery at the site to damage buildings and the drill pad. When police arrived to investigate the damage, the attackers had already left, they said.
Police said Tuesday that access to the area is being controlled to ensure safety and preserve evidence.
In an account published on the CGL website, a person CGL says is an employee identified only as Trevor described masked people surrounding his vehicle and smashing it with axes.
The post also included an image of a damaged trailer.
A hotly contested pipeline
So far, neither the police nor CGL have explicitly said whether they believe the alleged attack is tied to opposition to the hotly contested pipeline that is planned to extend from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the province's North Coast through the territory of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
CGL said the project is fully authorized and permitted by government and has the support of all 20 First Nation band councils, including five of the six band councils in the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
However, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have opposed the project, saying band councils do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries.
In December 2019, the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction against members of the Wet'suwe'ten Nation who were blocking access to the worksite located within its territory. Earlier that year, police made more than a dozen arrests of people identifying as land defenders, who had set up blockades to stop construction.
In November 2021, RCMP made another set of arrests of Wet'suwet'en members. Police used a chainsaw to break down the door of a cabin where people opposed to the pipeline had been staying. Two journalists were also arrested.
In both cases, police were met with little resistance, despite preparing for high levels of violence.
In a statement issued Saturday, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs said they did not have enough information to comment on the situation.
The statement denounced violence and expressed concern over the safety of its members who live in the area.