September 16, 2021

Hope for Line 5 opponents via Line 3’s latest development?

The U.N. gets involved
By Lynda Wheatley | Sept. 11, 2021

Opponents of the ongoing Line 3 pipeline project in northern Minnesota — an oil-moving cousin of the also-contested, also-Enbridge-owned Line 5 pipeline, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac — just got a heavyweight in their corner: the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The committee recently announced it is undertaking an investigation into possible violations of  Anishinaabe citizens’ treaty rights resulting from Canada-based Enbridge Energy’s tar-sands pipeline reconstruction project in northern Minnesota. If the United Nations finds violations, it would mean a breach of international law — specifically, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination — not by Canada or Enbridge, but by the United States.

According to a letter written by committee chair Yanduan Li to the Chargé d’Affaires of the Permanent U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the committee has requested, by Oct. 15, information from the United States that would include, among many items, “details on the status of the treaties concluded between the Anishinaabe indigenous peoples and the Government of the United States of America and on measures adopted to guarantee the respect of the rights of the Anishinaabe under such treaties, in particular their usufructuary rights as upheld by the Supreme Court’s ruling [in the 1999 case, Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, 526 U.S. 172].”

So what’s that mean for Line 5? Nothing yet. But many Anishinaabe and non-Native America citizens here in Michigan — as well as Gov. Whitmer’s Nov. 2020 order to revoke the easement allowing Enbridge to transport through Line 5 — charge that Line 5 violates the rights accorded to Michigan’s First People in the 1836 Treaty of Washington, reaffirmed in 1855. The United Nations’ findings on Line 3 would be an indication of what’s to come — or not — for Line 5’s legal battles. We — and the world — are watching.

*Photo above: Line 3 protestors at the Mississippi Headwaters during Line 3 HDD drilling. Photo by Keri Pickett via


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