Indigenous Nations Blast Canada’s Support of Line 5

Indigenous Nations Blast Canada’s Support of Line 5

It’s been well documented that Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline presents an imminent threat to the sovereign rights of many Tribes and First Nations in the Great Lakes region of North America. For instance, all of the Indigenous tribes and communities in Michigan publicly opposed Line 5 and called for a shutdown long ago. 


A map of the Line 5 pipeline (Credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 

But that opposition reached a new, historic level with an extremely powerful submission to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council by 51 Tribal and First Nations of Anishinaabe People, detailing Canada’s violations of international commitments to respect Indigenous rights due to Canada’s support of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. 

The letter and report to the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council came in advance of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place right now at U.N. headquarters in New York City through April 28. Canada is currently undergoing its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process in which U.N. member countries must evaluate their human rights records. The Tribal and First Nations’ letter will be considered in Canada’s review.  

The report submitted by the Tribal and First Nations squarely focuses on the detrimental impacts of Line 5 to human rights and shows how Canada is working to prevent the decommissioning of Line 5 despite Enbridge violating easement conditions and trespassing on Indigenous Peoples’ land.

In taking these actions to support Enbridge and Line 5’s continued operation, the Tribes explain, Canada has violated international obligations. These obligations are to not only protect Indigenous People’s rights but also to regulate Canadian businesses to prevent human rights impacts and protect human rights in the face of climate change – commitments that Canada accepted during their last Universal Periodic Review. Finally, the submission calls on Canada to change its posture on Line 5, withdraw from its positions on Enbridge’s ongoing Line 5 litigation and engage in diplomatic talks with the United States, and make sure that Indigenous Nations are invited to participate in discussions related to the future of Line 5.


While the focus of the Tribes’ submission letter and report to the U.N. is on Canada, the silence of the United States federal government is deafening. Canada is filing letters and briefs in Michigan courts, engaging the U.S. State Department in high level diplomatic negotiations, and using public statements and other legal tools to ensure that Enbridge continues operating Line 5 for as long as possible – furthering a looming disaster for our water and our climate. President Biden and various federal agencies need to step up to support the rights of states like Michigan and all the Tribal Nations in the Upper Great Lakes region.

As Line 5’s 70th birthday approaches this weekend, you can get involved in the fight to shut down the outdated, dangerous oil pipeline once and for all. Click here to send a message to President Biden urging him to support Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown order and protect the health of our Great Lakes and Indigenous rights. 

Tell President Biden: Support Gov. Whitmer’s Line 5 shutdown order

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