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Politicians condemn violence at Coastal GasLink construction site in northern B.C.

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.
Machinery, which police allege was destroyed by protesters, is seen in a Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, handout photo. Several politicians are denouncing what police have called a violent confrontation between a group of about 20 people and Coastal GasLink employees at a work site for a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Royal Canadian Mounted Police, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

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 site and on a forestry road "disturbing."

"I'm deeply concerned to hear reports of violent confrontations at the work site including the injury of an RCMP officer," he said Friday in Ottawa. 

"And I want to make it clear that no matter what your cause, or your views are, on any subject matter, there is never any justification for violence toward your fellow Canadians. And that obviously includes the members of the RCMP and other members who work in our law enforcement."

On Thursday, RCMP said they were called to a Coastal GasLink construction site following reports of an attack against security guards and damaged property. Before getting there, officers were stopped on the road by a fire where a group allegedly threw smoke bombs and flaming sticks, injuring the officer, police said in a statement. 

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Chris Manseau said Friday that the investigation is ongoing and there were no updates. 

Photos of the construction site provided by police and Coastal GasLink show overturned machines, including a backhoe, dump trucks with caved in front ends and a trailer with a large section smashed out of its middle. 

"This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion-dollar path of destruction," Chief Supt. Warren Brown, north district commander for the RCMP, said in a news release on Thursday.

Police said that as many as 20 people may have been involved in the attack, some of them carrying axes when they allegedly attacked security guards and smashed vehicle windows. Coastal GasLink said there were no physical injuries to its workers. 

Premier John Horgan called the attack "reprehensible," saying the damage and destruction are disturbing. 

"The B.C. government understands the seriousness of this violent and criminal act," he said in a statement.

"Intimidation and violence should be condemned by all British Columbians." 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as well as former Edmonton and Calgary mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi called the violence "deplorable" on social media. 

In a tweet, Kenney raised the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act to end a blockade against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa, asking if similar measures would be used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the attack at Coastal GasLink. 

"Will the Trudeau government now seize the bank accounts of the foreign funded eco-terrorists responsible for this violence?" he asked.

The RCMP have not given any indication who might be responsible for the alleged attacks.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also pushed the federal government on whether it would use the Emergencies Act in the Coastal GasLink case.

"If the Trudeau government is set on using the Emergencies Act to end blockades, then they should also use it to follow the money, seize the associated vehicles and provide all of the resources necessary to ensure those illegally acting here are arrested for damaging and blocking this critical export infrastructure," he said in a tweet.

Coastal GasLink said in a news release that the alleged confrontation occurred in the same spot where a blockade protesting the pipeline's construction was set up last year for about two months. 

The 670-kilometre pipeline has been at the centre of several protests and arrests. 

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposing the pipeline sparked rallies and rail blockades across Canada in 2020. 

Coastal GasLink obtained an injunction against blockades and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs issued the company an eviction notice. 

Hereditary Chief Na'moks declined to comment on Friday. 

"We simply don't have enough information to make any comments, all we know is no arrests or charges and harassment of our camps continue," he said in a text message. "Nothing more than that until we get more information as well."

The elected council of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation is among those who have approved of the project. 

Kent Wilfur, a vice-president at Coastal GasLink, said in a news release on Friday that he has spoken to workers, Indigenous and community leaders, governments, and the company's partners, "and all have expressed their outrage about this attack."

"We appreciate the outpouring of support for our workers, including the labour unions who represent them, and stand together in condemning these actions."

The news release said about nine members of the company's night shift were the victims of the attack.

It said Coastal GasLink plans to resume construction when it safe to do so after the police investigation on site is complete and the company has finalized a damage assessment.

Construction on the pipeline began in 2019 and is expected to be completed next year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2022.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press