Canada’s federal police are currently investigating an attack on a natural gas drilling site in British Columbia that vandalized equipment, threatened workers, and caused millions of dollars of property damage.
The attack occurred shortly after midnight on Feb. 17 at a drilling site of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) Pipeline; the project is currently under development and owned by North American energy company TC Energy.
According to an official report published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the incident was extreme, including acts of violence at the site and safety concerns as armed individuals attacked security guards, broke vehicle windows, and threw smoke bombs and flaming sticks at attending emergency services.
In one instance, an intruder reportedly attempted to set a vehicle on fire while a CGL worker was inside.
According to the release, when RCMP were en route to assist, the service road towards the drilling site had been tactically barricaded with fallen trees, tar-covered stumps, wire, spiked boards, and even an old, overturned school bus.
At the drilling site, heavy machinery, fencing, and portable buildings had been severely vandalized.
The attack was conducted by approximately 20 assalaints, some carrying axes. While one officer was injured, workers at the drilling site safely escaped.
RCMP Chief Superintendant Warren Brown characterized the domestic terrorism as “a very troubling escalation in violent criminal activity that could have resulted in serious injury or death.”
“This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion dollar path of destruction,” he added.
According to Reuters, federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, an appointee of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called the attacks “disturbing,” yet no mention of utilizing the newly minted Emergencies Act, deployed against the Ottawa Freedom Convoy trucker occupation protest, in response to the siege was made.
One of many
The investigation into the identity of the recent attackers is currently underway. While the attack may appear unprompted, it is not the first conflict that has occurred near the drilling site.
CGL has been the source of political conflict in Canada due to dissent from environmental groups, as well as members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who claim the pipeline is intruding on their unceded territory.
The conflict between the Wet’suwet’en, RCMP, and Coastal GasLink sparked numerous protests throughout early 2020 after the company was granted an injunction by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to remove protesters and blockades from their worksite.
Despite the court’s decision, blockades, protests, and conflict have continued to occur at the drilling site and have been freshly reignited. In October of 2021, Coastal GasLink reported that more than 400 men and women who worked for the company were trapped in construction lodges after a blockade was placed upon the only accessible road leading to a company housing site.
In addition to the blockades, heavy equipment had been damaged or stolen, “including by force,” at multiple locations.
These issues continued throughout late 2021. In November, three more illegal blockages were constructed on the service road, risking the safety of crew members who were trapped without access to supplies, water, or medical care; the RCMP were forced to become involved.
In December, the company reported that an opposition group took over the drill site by threatening CGL security officers with violence, damaging trucks and firing flares. The assailants were camouflaged and masked.
While the Feb. 17 attack may have appeared unpredictable, the company noted near the end of 2021 that they were “increasingly concerned about the safety of [their] workforce.”
The project’s future
While no suspects have been identified for the recent attack, the future safety of the pipeline, and its workers, remains uncertain.
The RCMP has asked the public to help identify the attackers and has been investigating the crisis.
Brown commented on the matter, “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.”
CGL also declared their business operations as “lawful, authorized, fully permitted” and having obtained the blessing of “the unprecedented support of local and Indigenous communities.”
To date, the pipeline project is almost 60 percent complete.