Representatives of 51 tribes and First Nations have presented a demand to the United Nations to call on Canada to end its support for the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline.
In a petition to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the coalition claims the pipeline is a threat to the human rights of front line Indigenous communities and to the environment. It claims the tribes and entities of the U.S. government have agreed to talks, to settle the dispute. Still, Canada has consistently invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty, blocking any meaningful progress.
Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, said it is about maintaining their sovereignty.
“Ultimately, the reason we’re involved is in order to protect the future of not only the state of Michigan and the water quality of the Great Lakes,” Gravelle pointed out. “But also to continue to protect the future of our Indigenous lifeways.”
Line 5 moves crude oil from Canada to Michigan underneath the Straits of Mackinac. The controversial project has been the target of multiple environmental groups and tribes over concern a spill could pollute much of the Great Lakes. A request to the Canadian Foreign Ministry seeking comment was not returned.
Gravelle noted this week, representatives of the coalition will travel to New York City to present their grievances to the U.N. Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous People, which oversees treaty disputes.
“When that treaty was negotiated, our ancestors at the time decided to cede 14 million acres of land and 13 million acres of water in exchange for the preservation of treaty rights,” Gravelle explained.
She added tribes and First Nations have grown weary of trying to get Canada to live up to its obligations, and hopes the United Nations can intervene and move the parties toward a settlement.
“The government of Canada is really speaking with two faces,” Gravelle contended. “On one hand, they are intervening in domestic litigation to support Enbridge Energy. They are delaying the court proceedings from being able to be adjudicated. We are suffering harm as a result.”
This story was written by Mark Richardson, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.