Politicians are denouncing what police have called a violent confrontation in separate attacks against officers and employees at a construction site for a natural gas pipeline being built across northern British Columbia.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the allegations of violence at the Coastal GasLink (CGL) site and on a forestry road disturbing, saying he is “deeply concerned” by reports of “violent confrontations” and the injury to an RCMP officer.
On Friday, RCMP said they were called to the site early Thursday following reports of an attack against security guards and damaged property, but before getting there they were stopped on the road by a fire where a group threw smoke bombs and flaming sticks, injuring the officer.
Mendicino says there is no justification for “violence towards your fellow Canadians,” no matter the cause.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as well as former Edmonton and Calgary mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi called the violence “deplorable” on social media.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Chris Manseau says the investigation is ongoing and there are no updates.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the actions were “egregious criminal activity” that could have led to serious injury or loss of life.
CGL says nine nightshift workers “were terrorized” during the violent incident that began just after midnight, and fled for their safety.
The company says the attackers disabled lighting and video surveillance at the worksite as part of the coordinated attack.
It also says the attackers commandeered heavy equipment on-site and used it to cause significant damage to other heavy equipment and trailers. A similar tactic has been used in previous blockades, CGL added.
“Everyone deserves to have a safe workplace and we are disturbed by the level of violence and destruction,” Kent Wilfur, CGL’s vice president of project delivery, said in a statement.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support for our workers, including the labour unions who represent them, and stand together in condemning these actions.”
Photo and video evidence from the scene, including imagery of the masked attackers, has been turned over to the RCMP, CGL added.
CGL noted the remote worksite, approximately 60 km from Houston, B.C., is now under the control of the RCMP and considered an active crime scene.
The RCMP reported being attacked by smoke bombs and fire lit sticks on the road to the site while attempting to respond to the scene
The company says an initial estimate of damaged equipment and property adds up to millions of dollars.
“We are aware of reports that wrongly suggest that this attack was staged,” Wilfur adds. “We find these suggestions offensive and irresponsible as they only serve to retraumatize the workers who experienced the violent attack.”
Meanwhile, CGL says there were several incidents lately where unknown people used forest trails to access this construction site, disrupt activities by confronting and intimidating workers that were reported to police. It is unknown if these events are related to the Feb. 17 attack.
CGL says work “is safely continuing along the rest of the 670 km pipeline project route, which is nearly 60 per cent complete.”