August 29, 2023, Geneva, CH –This week, as United Nations Member States prepare to review Canada’s human rights record as part of the Universal Periodic Review, Indigenous communities and their allies are urging the government of Canada to respect their rights and oppose the Line 5 oil pipeline. Owned and operated by the Canadian company Enbridge, Line 5 is a dangerous 70-year-old pipeline carrying crude oil and gas from Canada through Anishinaabe territories in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. Indigenous communities have repeatedly called for the decommissioning of Line 5 to protect their human rights to life, culture, a healthy environment, and free, prior, and informed consent. 

Earlier this month, an international human rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council released a report in which he recommends that Canada “cease construction or operation of the Coastal GasLink, Trans Mountain and Line 5 pipelines, until the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected is secured.” To date, the government of Canada has supported Line 5 despite its dangers. Canada’s government has sought to shield Enbridge from shuttering Line 5, invoking the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty with the U.S. and making legal submissions in U.S. courts to keep the pipeline operating. 

This week, as part of the Universal Periodic Review, Indigenous communities are asking Canada to put the safety of people ahead of corporate profits by rescinding the invocation of Article IX of the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty and honoring its obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Whitney Gravelle, President of Bay Mills Indian Community, released the following statement: 

“Canada’s support of Line 5 is a disaster in the making for the entire Great Lakes region. An oil spill would poison our fish, harm our sacred sites, contaminate our drinking water – and ultimately destroy our Indigenous way of life. In the last 50 years, Line 5 has been the source of more than 30 oil spills, releasing over a million gallons of toxins into the environment. Every minute Line 5 continues to operate extends the likelihood of further catastrophic oil spills along its route. The rights of Indigenous people should be respected by all sovereigns, both domestically and abroad. Line 5 violates these rights, and Canada must revoke its consent for Line 5.” 

Marco Simons, General Counsel of EarthRights International, released the following statement: 

Canada must respect and actively protect Indigenous peoples’ lands and way of life. This includes regulating companies like Enbridge that threaten those rights. At every turn with Line 5, Canada failed to do so, and it neglected to even consult with, let alone obtain the consent of, the affected Indigenous communities. Moreover, Canada is actively intervening legally and diplomatically to ensure that Enbridge can operate Line 5 for decades to come. 

“In April, representatives of 51 Tribal and First Nations located in what is now the United States and Canada submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council calling on the Government of Canada to stop violating the human rights of Indigenous peoples through its support for Line 5. Now, under the Universal Periodic Review, it’s time for Canada to face its peers and account for its failure to meet its human rights obligations. Line 5 must be part of that conversation.”  

Francesca Mingrone, Staff Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), released the following statement: 

“During this Universal Periodic Review, Canada’s human rights record will be scrutinized on an international stage. As the Canadian government faces review by fellow States over the next several months, it has a prime opportunity to reverse course on Line 5 and set an example for other States to follow. UN Member States have a legal duty to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and have made international commitments to act to confront the climate crisis. Withdrawing support for Line 5 is a critical step for Canada toward meeting both of those obligations.

“Recent recommendations from leading international voices, including the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, have underscored the real, urgent threats posed by Line 5, which were raised by 51 affected Tribal and First Nations in a joint submission for this review. Canada can no longer ignore these voices. The government must act to stop Line 5.”

Kate Fried, EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057

Lani Furbank, Center for International Environmental Law  
(202) 742.5785