A photo collage of a pipeline over water

Open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau: Shut Down Line 5!

Joint Letter
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - 15:00

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

The undersigned 16 climate justice organizations are writing to express our grave concern with the Government of Canada’s position on the decommissioning of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Instead of supporting Michigan Governor Whitmer’s actions to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill, the government has aligned itself with Enbridge instead of the health and safety of the Great Lakes and the communities along the shore. 

We are calling on the federal government to protect the Great Lakes, respect Indigenous rights, and ensure a climate-safe future by withdrawing any legal or other opposition to Gov. Whitmer’s decision to shut down the Line 5 pipelines and offering support to transition workers affected by the shutdown. 

These 68-year-old pipelines, designed to last 50 years, present a clear and present danger to the Great Lakes. The twin pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac put 20 per cent of the world’s fresh surface water and the region’s economy at risk, and were never subject to modern-day environmental laws and reviews.

An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would prove catastrophic to the Great Lakes and to the 40 million people who live on the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and rely on the lakes for their drinking water, livelihoods, and quality of life. A pipeline rupture would impact up to 700 miles of shoreline. Line 5 has spilled at least 33 times and 1.1 million gallons of oil along its length since 1968. 

Meanwhile, Enbridge has committed, and continues to commit multiple violations of its 1953 easement with the State of Michigan related to design, operation and maintenance, directly threatening the health and safety of the Great Lakes and the communities depending on them. The State of Michigan, as owner and trustee, has a legal responsibility to manage the public-owned bottomlands where Line 5 is located and protect the Great Lakes. Calling it “a ticking time bomb”, Gov. Whitmer revoked the easement to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill, and ordered the pipelines to shut down by May 12, 2021. Governor Whitmer’s decision has been applauded by Tribal nations, communities, faith groups, businesses and residents across Michigan. Enbridge is challenging this decision in court.

We are deeply concerned that the Government of Canada is opposing this important decision and is taking steps to push back on it. By working to keep the pipelines operational, the Government of Canada is taking the side of a private company’s profits over the health and safety of the Great Lakes. Enbridge has run a fierce public campaign stirring up fear and exaggerating the risks of a shutdown in terms of the labour impacts, while continuing to deny the safety hazards the pipelines pose.

A University of Michigan study has estimated that a spill from the Line 5 pipelines could result in $6 billion USD in damages to the Michigan economy. Canadians and First Nations along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are not impervious to the damage of the spill. Canada has a responsibility to protect the shared Great Lakes, and that means shutting down the Line 5 pipelines.

The Government of Canada’s position violates Indigenous rights and self-determination. The Straits of Mackinac is home to Bay Mills Indian Community. Bay Mills has opposed the existing Line 5 pipeline over concerns about impacts to treaty rights, impacts to the environment and the risk posed by Enbridge work camps and the threat to Indigenous women and children. The Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi are all backing Michigan. Similarly, the leadership of the Anishinabek Nation, which recently communicated its disappointment with the federal government's opposition to the closure of Line 5 in Michigan, noted that this ignores the treaties with First Nations as well as the cross-border commitment to protect the Great Lakes via the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Line 5’s climate impacts strengthen the case to shut down the pipelines. To meet Canada’s climate target, we cannot continue operating and expanding fossil fuel projects like these pipelines, and must instead invest in a just transition, something the federal government has committed to. 

Governor Whitmer has chosen to put the interests of the public above that of an oil company. We urge the Government of Canada to do the same. 

Sincerely,

Climate Justice Ottawa 
Council of Canadians
Environmental Defence Canada
Climate Justice Toronto
Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet (GASP)
Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health
Fridays for the Future Calgary
Fridays For Future Windsor-Essex
Rapid Decarbonization Group
Green Majority Radio
Methane Action
Social Justice Co-operative or Newfoundland and Labrador
Glasswaters Foundation
Sharing The Harvest NL
Canadian Engaged Buddhism Association
Climate Justice Saskatoon
Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter, Council of Canadians