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Damaged heavy machinery is shown in this Feb. 17, 2022, RCMP handout photo near Houston, B.C.HO/The Canadian Press

RCMP are investigating allegations that a group of about 20 people, some of them armed with axes, attacked security guards and smashed vehicle windows at a Coastal GasLink work site.

The incident, described Thursday in statements from the RCMP and Coastal GasLink, took place near Houston, B.C., where workers are building the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a key part of the LNG Canada project now under construction in Kitimat, B.C.

The pipeline, which would carry gas from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada’s $18-billion export terminal, has faced sustained opposition from some Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary leaders, and their supporters because it does not have the consent of hereditary chiefs.

Coastal GasLink’s 670-kilometre route crosses about 190 kilometres of the Wet’suwet’en’s traditional territory.

Police have previously conducted raids to arrest protestors at several sites along the pipeline route. In November, photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano were among those arrested when RCMP moved in to enforce a court injunction designed to ensure access to Coastal GasLink work sites. They were later released.

In a statement Thursday, RCMP said they are investigating an incident where people allegedly engaged in a violent confrontation with CGL employees along the Morice River Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C.

Police said they were called to the site shortly after midnight on Feb. 17.

“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 police statement said.

RCMP found the roadway had been blocked with downed trees, stumps and boards with spikes in them, and that fires had been lit throughout the debris.

“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, says Chief Superintendent Warren Brown, North District commander, said in a statement.

“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.”

In a statement Thursday, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the B.C. government “emphatically condemns the violence and destruction perpetrated near the Morice River drill pad site off the Marten Forest Service Road.”

“The RCMP is conducting a full investigation into this egregious criminal activity that could have led to serious injury or loss of life.” Mr. Farnworth said.

Coastal GasLink also issued a statement, saying its workers were left shaken following what the company described as a “highly planned and dangerous unprovoked assault.”

The incident took place near the Morice River drill pad site off the Marten Forest Service Road, where a former blockade and opposition camp last year lasted 59 days, the company said.

“This coordinated and criminal attack from multiple directions threatened the lives of several workers,” Coastal GasLink said in its statement, adding that there was an attempt to set a vehicle on fire while people were inside.

No workers were injured, the company said.

In a statement, LNG Canada said, “We know this attack does not reflect the views and opinions of the majority of those in the local communities,” citing the support of elected and hereditary leadership from 20 First Nations along the route.

With a file from Brent Jang

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