Mounties investigating the attack on a natural gas pipeline construction site in northern B.C. say they’re reviewing surveillance video from the scene, but no suspects have yet been identified, and so far no link to ongoing protests in the area has been found.
“There is video that we’re actively looking through, and we will likely be able to release some of that information at some point if it becomes pertinent for the investigative team,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Sascha Baldinger in Houston, B.C. on Saturday.
Police have previously said as many as 20 people were involved in an attack on a Coastal GasLink work site shortly after midnight Thursday.
Asked if police know exactly who they’re investigating, Baldinger said no.
While police have called the attack an “escalation” of the ongoing conflict between anti-pipeline protesters and workers at the site, Baldinger clarified that police have not established any connection between those involved in previous confrontations and the latest attack.
“Although there have been confrontations in the past and there has been active protest in the area, at this point we have no linkages to those events and this current event,” he said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has been under construction since 2019 and is scheduled to be completed next year. It is slated to carry natural gas to the also-under-construction LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.
The owner of the pipeline, TC Energy, has agreements with elected First Nations councils along the pipeline’s route, but some of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the project, which runs through the nation’s traditional territory.
Environmental activists and Indigenous land defenders have sought to stop the pipeline from being constructed, and the B.C. Supreme Court has granted the company an injunction that prohibits the protesters from interfering with the company’s construction work.
The investigation into the recent attack is not related to breaches of the injunction, Baldinger said Saturday, noting that the acts of vandalism at the work site constitute criminal offences.
Some of the perpetrators of the attack carried axes, and at least one had handheld power tools, which were used to cut through a gate at the site.
After chasing off the nine Coastal GasLink workers who were present at the time, the attackers took control of construction equipment and used it to cause millions of dollars of damage to the site, according to police.
Baldinger said Saturday that RCMP believe they were also targets of the attack. Officers encountered multiple roadblocks and what Baldinger described as “booby traps” along the Marten Forest Service Road that leads to the work site.
Mounties said in their initial statement about the attack that people threw “smoke bombs” and “fire-lit sticks” at officers as they attempted to make their way to the site.
Given that the road is the only vehicle route to the work site, Baldinger was asked why RCMP were unable to arrest any of the people involved at the time of the attack.
“Some of our members actually did pursue some of the individuals that they were confronted by,” he said. “However, because of the nightfall and the actual booby traps that were set up, and one of our members actually getting injured … (The attackers) just ended up disappearing into the forest.”
On Sunday, Coastal GasLink published an account of the attack from a security guard who was present when it began. The worker, who the company identified only as “Trevor,” described the attack as “terrifying,” saying attackers hit his truck with axes and attempted to light it on fire while he was inside.
The company said its workers have declined requests for media interviews about the attack “due to concerns for their safety and security, along with that of their families.”
“Coastal GasLink takes the safety, security and well-being of our people very seriously,” the company said. “Members of the Coastal GasLink team have in the past experienced multiple cases of online harassment and threats, and as such, we will respect our workers’ right to privacy and are providing ongoing support as needed.”