An alleged “calculated and organized violent attack” early Thursday against workers on the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. has unleashed a torrent of condemnation from politicians across the country.

In a statement, B.C. Premier John Horgan called the incident, which reportedly caused millions of dollars in damage and injured one responding police officer, “reprehensible.” The province “understands the seriousness of this violent and criminal act,” he said, adding his thoughts were with traumatized workers and the injured officer.

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, condemned the violence. “This incident must be thoroughly investigated and those involved held accountable,” he said in a social media post.

B.C.’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and his federal counterpart, Marco Mendicino, added to the chorus.

As of Friday afternoon, police said there were no updates on the investigation and the worksite remained in RCMP control as a crime scene. There were no suspects identified at that time.

The alleged violence occurred along the Morice River Forest Service Road, south of Houston, B.C., along the route of the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline.

TC Energy said unknown individuals damaged lighting and surveillance equipment before attacking nine workers, including trying to light a truck on fire with workers inside. Photo by TC Energy

TC Energy is building the contentious pipeline that local First Nations and supporters have been resisting for years.

Neither the RCMP nor the company has suggested the alleged attacks are connected to the pipeline resistance.

An alleged “calculated and organized violent attack” early Thursday against workers on the #CoastalGasLink pipeline in northern B.C. has unleashed a torrent of condemnation from politicians across the country. 

Calls and messages to a spokesperson for the Gitimt’en Checkpoint and the hereditary chief of the area were not returned Friday.

The Coastal GasLink project would run 670 kilometres from northeast B.C. to the Pacific coast, transporting natural gas across a huge swath of Wet’suwet’en territory. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have authority over the territory, oppose the project. Elected band councils, which have authority over reserve lands along the route, largely support the project.

TC Energy successfully sought a court injunction in January 2020 after opponents blocked construction and police have conducted several operations to remove land defenders and their supporters, resulting in numerous arrests. Meanwhile, the Wet’suwet’en have served the company eviction notices that have gone unheeded.

According to an RCMP press release Thursday afternoon, officers responded to an overnight call from Coastal GasLink security.

“It was reported approximately 20 people, some armed with axes, were attacking security guards and smashing their vehicle windows,” the release read. “It was initially reported that some CGL employees were trapped, but all had managed to safely leave the area.”

The RCMP statement said police responding to the call shortly after midnight Thursday ran into downed trees, tar-covered stumps, wire and spiked boards set on fire at the 41-kilometre mark of the Morice River Forest Service Road. As officers made their way through the “debris and traps,” several people threw “smoke bombs and fire-lit sticks” at them, according to the RCMP.

A couple of kilometres on, an old school bus blocked the road. Another 20 kilometres along, at a construction site where workers are drilling under the Wedzin Kwa, or Morice, River, officers found “significant damage” to heavy equipment, buildings and fencing.

TC Energy has estimated that damage to its worksite and equipment runs into the millions of dollars. Photo by TC Energy.

“This is a very troubling escalation in violent criminal activity that could have resulted in serious injury or death,” RCMP North District Chief Supt. Warren Brown is quoted as saying in the release. “While we respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest in Canada, we cannot tolerate this type of extreme violence and intimidation.”

A statement from Coastal GasLink, accompanied by a slew of photos of damaged equipment and vehicles, said a group of “masked and violent attackers wearing camouflage” surrounded nine workers near the drill pad in a “co-ordinated and criminal attack from multiple directions threaten[ing] 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.”

A later statement from the company said the attackers had disabled lighting and video surveillance at the site, but that photos and video of the incident had been turned over to the police. The company said the incident follows several others in recent weeks where unknown individuals have “used forest trails” to enter the site and “disrupt activities by confronting and intimidating workers.” TC Energy said it is unknown whether the earlier incidents are connected.

The company said no workers were injured, though they were left “shaken.”

Coastal GasLink vice-president of project delivery Kent Wilfur refuted theories circulating online that the attack was staged.

“We are aware of reports that wrongly suggest that this attack was staged,” a statement quoted him as saying. “We find these suggestions offensive and irresponsible as they only serve to retraumatize the workers who experienced the violent attack.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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Yeah, I bet "calls and messages were not returned".

Look the National Observer managed to fly a dozen people to Glasgow for COP26. Can't they manage a car with two journalists to make a day's drive, knock on doors, get reactions from around Smithers area? Maybe you could get interviews with people who are not Hereditary Chiefs. It's been a while.

Obviously, moral high ground has been almost completely lost, and support will go away unless the Hereditary Chiefs convincingly disassociate themselves from the event. As they'll be automatically suspected of involvement, it's going to require some on-the-ground, up-close, highly-credible journalism to extract any accepted truths out of the mess.

The NO has been heavily into this subject, they really should get on it.