In Anishinaabe territories surrounding the Great Lakes, a seventy-year-old pipeline carries oil and gas originating in Canada through Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. Owned and operated by Enbridge, Line 5 was originally designed to last only fifty years. Its operation in the Great Lakes region has resulted in more than thirty documented spills to date, releasing an estimated 1.1 million gallons of petroleum into the environment.
Indigenous communities have long demanded the shutdown of Line 5. Every day that this pipeline remains operational increases the likelihood of further catastrophic oil spills, endangering Indigenous territories and cultures, the Great Lakes, and other essential sources of freshwater. While a US court has found that Line 5 is trespassing on Indigenous land — and Michigan’s governor revoked the company’s permission to run the pipeline — Canada continues to support its operation.
CIEL has been working with partners and affected Indigenous communities to demonstrate that Canada’s support for the Line 5 pipeline violates Indigenous Peoples’ territorial sovereignty and their right to a healthy environment, among other rights. With CIEL’s
assistance, they secured a strong recommendation from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, urging Canada and the US to uphold their human rights obligations and decommission Line 5. This recommendation was echoed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, who also pointed out that Canada’s efforts to extend the operation of the Line 5 oil pipeline contradicts its international commitment to phase out fossil fuels to mitigate climate change.