Twenty “masked and violent attackers” armed with axes and flare guns raided an oil drill site near Houston, British Columbia in the early hours of Thursday.
The alleged attackers, whom the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say engaged in a “violent confrontation with employees of Coastal GasLink” also assaulted attending police officers, injuring one.
“On Thursday, February 17, 2022, shortly after midnight, Houston RCMP was called to the Marten Forest Service Road (FSR) after Coastal Gas Link (CGL) security reported acts of violence at their work site,” the RCMP reported in an official statement.
“It was reported approximately 20 people, some armed with axes, were attacking security guards and smashing their vehicle windows. It was initially reported that some CGL employees were trapped, but all had managed to safely leave the area,” the RCMP said.
“Upon police attendance at the 41 km mark, the roadway had been blocked with downed trees, tar covered stumps, wire, boards with spikes in them, and fires had been lit throughout the debris. As police worked their way through the debris and traps, several people threw smoke bombs and fire lit sticks at the police, injuring one officer.”
According to a statement by Coastal GasLink, the attackers, who wore masks and camouflage, surrounded and attacked the oil workers in what the company described as a “highly planned and dangerous unprovoked assault.”
The Morice River drill site off the Marten Forest Service Road is the location of a former blockade and opposition camp in 2021 that lasted 59 days.
“In one of the most concerning acts, an attempt was made to set a vehicle on fire while workers were inside,” the company stated. “The attackers also wielded axes, swinging them at vehicles and through a truck's window. Flare guns were also fired at workers. Workers fled the site for their own safety and remain shaken by this violent incident. Fortunately, there were no physical injuries to Coastal GasLink workers.”
The company stated that the attackers used grinders to cut locks on the gates surrounding the active construction site and vandalized heavy equipment and on-site trailers, causing millions of dollars in damage to contractor equipment and property.
“Equipment hydraulic and fuel lines were also cut, causing dangerous leaks,” Coastal GasLink stated. “Damage and environmental impacts are still being assessed. We are working to contain and clean up the environmental damage caused by the attackers. We also understand the attackers felled trees, placed tire spikes and lit fires on roads in an effort to impede access to the remote worksite.”
Both Coastal GasLink and the RCMP shared numerous pictures of the attack, which includes extensive damage to industrial vehicles, trailers, and felled trees blocking one of the roads.
“This is 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,” said Chief Superintendent Warren Brown, North District Commander.
“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,” he said.
The RCMP is appealing to the public for assistance for more information on the incident.