The Green Party of the United States is condemning the Canadian government’s attempt to invoke a 1977 treaty in the escalating legal disputes surrounding the closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

Line 5 moves crude oil from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, passing through the Straits of Mackinac along the way. This six kilometre stretch of the pipeline is at risk of leaking into the Great Lakes, with potentially severe consequences for the environment. Amid concerns of a leak, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the pipeline shut down in November of 2020, but pipeline company Enbridge refused. They are now embroiled in a legal battle.

Canada had previously pressured the Michigan government to keep the pipeline open. On October 4th, the Canadian government invoked a 1977 treaty that called for an unimpeded flow of petroleum between the two countries, with the only exceptions being made for natural disasters or emergencies. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau stated that Canada “is firmly committed to ensuring its energy and economic security.”

Mark Dunlea, co-chair of the ‘EcoAction Committee of the United States’ and Green Party spokesperson, spoke to Global Green News about the pipeline. He said he strongly opposed what he called a “desperate effort” by the Canadian government to use the 1977 Treaty. He said that the American Green Party has “long advocated for the halt (sic) of all fossil fuel infrastructure and the rapid phaseout of all uses”. Concerns regarding the pipeline included “catastrophic oil pipeline rupture” and the “existential crisis” of climate change.

Dunlea’s statement ends by pointing out that “the treaty that the Canadian government should be working to comply with are the ones with the various indigenous peoples who oppose the many such pipelines that pollute and destroy their lands and their communities.”

Native American tribal leaders have expressed opposition to the continued operation of Line 5. Bay Mills Indian Community President, Whitney Gravelle, claimed that tribal nations’ treaty rights in the area supersede the interests of Enbridge or Canada.

It is not clear whether the dispute will resolve in Canada’s favour, but some have doubts. Toronto-based trade lawyer, Mark Warner, pointed to another article in the same treaty that allows for “appropriate governmental authorities” to make decisions regarding “pipeline safety.”

Gabriel Blanc

Gabriel Blanc is an undergraduate student in history and environmental studies at Brown University from Toronto, Ontario. His areas of interest are electoral politics and the fight against climate change.

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