U.S. citizens send a message to the Canadian government: “Canada: Protect the Great Lakes from the Line 5 oil pipeline.”

September 3, 2021

By Michele Bourdieu, Keweenaw Now

DETROIT — On Sept. 1 2021, citizen groups, including tribal members, gathered near the Canadian consulate at the international Detroit River to send a message to the Canadian government: “Canada: Protect the Great Lakes from the Line 5 oil pipeline.” The event, organized by Oil and Water Don’t Mix, was livestreamed on YouTube.

Sean Mc Brearty, campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, spoke about the need to persuade Canada to support the Line 5 shutdown. 

“Today we have with us a container of water from the Great Lakes, from the Straits of Mackinac — clean, pure water of the Straits of Mackinac, where the Anishinaabe people who lived here first have their creation story,” McBrearty said.

Noting that Canada shares with the US and Michigan the responsibility of protecting the Great Lakes, McBrearty held up a bottle of that clean water from the Straits and announced a similar container of that clean water has been sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a reminder of that responsibility.

McBrearty continued, “Our message in a bottle to the Prime Minister is history will remember you for the choices that you make right now and the choices that you make today. You can protect our Great Lakes and our climate and support shutting down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac — and you need to do so — or you can support Enbridge and its fossil fuel agenda, but you can’t do both.”

McBrearty also read a statement from the National Wildlife Federation’s Beth Wallace, who commented on Enbridge’s proposed tunnel and Canada’s support of it. According to her statement, “Enbridge created this false narrative around a tunnel alternative to divide communities and prolong the life of Line 5. With a legal strategy that’s also based around creating as much delay as possible, the Canadian government is now actively working alongside Enbridge to prolong the life of a pipeline that could devastate our way of life.”

Christy McGillivray, political and legislative director for the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, then spoke in support of Governor Whitmer’s legal plan to shut down Line 5.

During a Sept. 1, 2021, press conference in Detroit, Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator, speaks about why Canada needs to support shutting down Line 5. (Screen shot from Oil and Water Don’t Mix livestream by Keweenaw Now)

“Since May Enbridge has been operating Line 5 illegally in defiance of the State of Michigan and with support from the government of Canada,” McGillivray said.

Pointing out that Governor Whitmer’s plan to shut down Line 5 protects the health and safety of Michiganders from a “ticking time bomb” while meeting Michigan’s energy needs, McGillivray noted that Canadian government officials have supported Enbridge — the company responsible for the devastating Kalamazoo oil spill — in their “defiant refusal” to decommission Line 5 in the 6 months (November to May) allowed by the Governor.

McGillivray also noted that at least 33 spills were reported officially along the Line 5 pipeline since the 1960s.

“That does NOT include a Line 5 spill in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, just a few miles from the Straits of Mackinac, in the Hiawatha National Forest, that resulted in 825 tons of soil being excavated and removed to a contamination site. Enbridge kept that spill secret for 30 years,” McGillivray said. “Canada should work with us right now — should work with Michigan and the Biden administration — and prevent Line 5 from continuing to contribute to our Code Red climate crisis.”

Jamie Simmons, Michigan Climate Action Network engagement director, spoke about the effects of climate change — noting its recent impacts on Detroit, other Michigan communities and Canada.

At the press conference, Jamie Simmons, Michigan Climate Action Network engagement director, notes that Canada’s support of Enbridge conflicts with its signing of the Paris Climate Accord. (Screenshot by Keweenaw Now)

“The Line 5 pipeline is a threat to our lives,” Simmons said. “Every day the Line 5 pipeline carries oil, a fossil fuel, that is causing a major carbon spill in our atmosphere — every day — which is warming our planet at alarming rates.”

Noting that Canada was one of the countries to ratify the Paris Climate Accord, Simmons cited the recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which calls for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The goal is to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 in order to limit the worst consequences of climate change. Canada agreed to that goal by signing the Paris Accord, she said.  

“Allowing Line 5 to continue to operate, or to be replaced by a new oil tunnel, as Enbridge is proposing, is not consistent with that climate goal,” Simmons added.

Instead of supporting Enbridge’s fossil fuel agenda, Canada should work with the US on a North American climate plan to cut emissions, Simmons concluded.

Andrea Pierce, chair of the Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus and a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, represented her tribe and read a message from her Tribal Chair, Regina Gasco-Bentley, who was unable to attend the event.

Andrea Pierce, chair of the Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus and a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, delivers a message from her Tribal Chair and speaks about Enbridge’s threat to the bottomlands of Lake Michigan, where evidence of a 10,000-year-old cultural sacred site was recently observed.** (Screenshot by Keweenaw Now)

In her message, Gasco-Bentley stated, “Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our Anishinaabek homeland. This water in the Straits nourishes our people. It provides critical habitat for our fish and medicines. We depend on healthy clean water to feed our communities. We know the Enbridge pipeline leak in the Kalamazoo River has been devastating to escosystem of the river and the tributaries. We must continue on a path to make people realize the vision we want: Safe water for our next seven generations. Women, I call on you. We are the water protectors, and we must stand together. Water must be protected. It’s time to shut down Line 5.”

Pierce then spoke of her own experience as one of the team that recently discovered a 10,000-year-old cultural sacred site on the bottomlands of Lake Michigan.**  Enbridge could destroy those bottomlands. Her people need to research that site in order to learn about their tribal history, she explained.

“We can’t do that if the water is destroyed and the bottomlands are covered in oil,” Pierce said. “All of the lakes are in jeopardy. All of our water is in jeopardy. When that breaks, think about Kalamazoo.

Editor’s Notes:

* See Keweenaw Now Nov. 13, 2020, article, “Governor Whitmer, DNR take action to revoke Enbridge easement, shut down Line 5 dual pipelines through Straits of Mackinac; AG Nessel files new lawsuit.”

** See: “Ancient underwater tribal cultural site discovered in Mackinac Straits near Line 5.”

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