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Surveillance images released as Mounties investigate attack at B.C. pipeline work site


Coastal GasLink has released surveillance images of several people near its under-construction natural gas pipeline in northern B.C., as police investigate a reported violent attack by roughly 20 people that happened early Thursday.

The photos provided show a person at the worksite. In another photo, a person is seen holding an axe.

Mounties said they were called to the Marten Forest Service Road shortly after midnight Thursday by Coastal GasLink security.

In a statement released Friday, the company’s vice president of project delivery, Kent Wilfur, said: "Our people were terrorized during this violent incident."

The statement went on to say Indigenous leaders, community members, and politicians have all expressed outrage.

Photos provided in a news release from Houston RCMP show extensive damage to vehicles and buildings at the Coastal GasLink work site.

"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-kilometre 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-kilometre 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. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The company hit back at suggestions circulating on social media that the whole thing was staged.

“We find these suggestions offensive and irresponsible as they only serve to retraumatize the workers who experienced the violent attack,” Wilfur added.

In its statement Friday, CGL said nine workers were present at the time of the attack, and that the attackers had disabled lighting and video surveillance.

"For the past several weeks, Coastal GasLink has experienced several incidents where unknown people who have used forest trails to access this construction site (and) disrupt activities by confronting and intimidating workers,” the statement continued. “These incidents were reported to police. It is unknown if these events are related to the Feb. 17 attack."

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, for a lucrative liquefied natural gas project, 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.

Hereditary Chief Na'moks declined to comment on the attack Friday, telling The Canadian Press he and his supporters are awaiting more information on what happened.

“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 told CP in a text message.

Though no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, RCMP described it as an escalation of the existing 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."

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross told CTV News he believes the incident represents an escalation.

"This last incident has taken things to another level, it's really quite shocking," he said Friday.

Ross, a longtime proponent of LNG, said he didn't believe Indigenous leaders were behind the attack.

"So the question is, who is behind this and who's funding this?"

Mounties blocked access to the worksite Friday, referring to it as a crime scene. The expectation was that they would be there for two weeks to investigate, although the situation was described as fluid.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had strong words for those behind the incident.

"This is absolutely a reprehensible and despicable act," he told reporters.

"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." 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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