Dear Canadian Consulate: Your hypocrisy on Line 3 is unbecoming and dishonours the Crown

An Open Letter to Ariel Delouya, Consul General, the Canadian Consulate in Minnesota

Dear Mr. Delouya,

I recently read the letter you submitted on behalf of the Canadian Consulate in Minnesota to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in support of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, specifically your support for Line 3’s revised environmental impact statement.

Given Canada’s commitment to respect the rights of First Nations peoples, it’s galling that you and your government are supporting violation of indigenous rights here in Minnesota. Your letter couches your support for Line 3 in the language of high principles, stating: “Canada is committed to renewing the relationship with lndigenous Peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.”

The position you are taking on Enbridge Line 3 fails to live up to those ideals.

I have followed the Truth and Reconciliation process between Canada and its First Nations peoples. The United States would do well to follow your example. I have reviewed your government’s websites on this subject and was drawn to Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples that lays out 10 key guidelines. They include the following:

Meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples aims to secure their free, prior, and informed consent when Canada proposes to take actions which impact them and their rights on their lands, territories, and resources.

Anishinaabe drummers encouraged and supported water protectors during a direct action in Bemidji, 2018.

If Canada truly holds this principle dear, how can it support Line 3? The project violates treaty rights of Indigenous people here in Minnesota. The project didn’t receive the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous nations. While two indigenous nations ultimately agreed to withhold their objections to Line 3, those decisions were coerced. Other indigenous nations are fighting the pipeline in court.

Your letter states that your government held “meaningful consultations” with the 109 indigenous groups potentially affected by Line 3. I have not followed the debate in Canada as I have in Minnesota; I can’t comment on what “meaningful consultation” looks like there.

Any fair reading of the record here in Minnesota would show that neither Enbridge nor the state of Minnesota offered meaningful consultation with Indigenous nations on this project. At the beginning of the Line 3 review process, all affected Anishinaabe nations in Minnesota opposed the project. They opposed it because the proposed Line 3 would cross territory where some nations have treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish and gather. They worried about how a 340-mile crude oil pipeline — one that would cross more than 200 water bodes and 75 miles of wetlands — could spill and pollute clean waters, destroy wild rice beds and affect indigenous lifeways. They also worried about an increase in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Final decisions on Line 3 at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission were not negotiated with indigenous nations but imposed on them.

I was struck by your letter’s defense of the Line 3 process, stating that “Enbridge reported it conducted the largest indigenous consultation program in its history.” Enbridge’s claim is empty. I could donate 25 cents to the Canadian Consulate today, then come back in a month and donate $3, and say: “I’ve conducted my largest ever donation campaign to the Canadian Consulate!” In fact, I haven’t given you enough to buy a large mocha at Starbucks.

You blithely accept Enbridge’s word on its “indigenous consultation,” yet you say nothing about the experience of indigenous nations in Minnesota. Did you talk to any of them? Have you asked them whether they believe the process engaged them in “free, prior and informed consent” around Line 3? Your failure to include their voice in your letter speaks volumes about who has your ear.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which requires nations to engage in “good faith” consultation with indigenous nations and get their “free, prior and informed consent” on projects that impact them. Does your respect for Native nations end at your border? If the answer to that is “yes,” then your country has no moral authority to comment on other human rights violations around the world.

Your letter argues that the Line 3 expansion project is about Minnesota’s energy security, saying: “Line 3 serves as a vital link from North American production regions to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other North American refinery markets.”

Again, more puffery. The record is clear. The Minnesota Department of Commerce declined to support Line 3 before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission because it said Enbridge had failed to prove the new Line 3 was needed. Documents from your own government debunk your argument. In 2012, a Canadian government report said:

The overall gasoline and diesel demand in North America … is expected to decline over the next two to three decades. On the other hand, the global demand for crude oil, especially in emerging economies, is projected to continue to increase ‘for the next 25 years and beyond’, which presents attractive export opportunities, considering Canada’s sizeable oil reserves.” (Page 1, PDF page 11)

Line 3 is not about Minnesota’s energy security, it’s about Canada’s desire for short-term jobs and profits from selling tar sands crude to international markets. To do this, you’re asking all Minnesotan — particularly the Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota — to bear the environmental risks from a pipeline spill.

Among Canada’s 10 key principles on engagement with indigenous nations, one reads: “The honour of the Crown guides the conduct of the Crown in all of its dealings with Indigenous peoples.”

Canada’s support for Line 3 — and the harmful impacts Line 3 would have on indigenous people here in Minnesota — dishonors the Crown.

Don’t cave on your principles. Reverse course and withdraw your support for Enbridge Line 3.

I look forward to your response, and will publish it at your request.

Sincerely,

Scott Russell
Minneapolis, MN
Healing Minnesota Stories Volunteer

Post Script: Climate Change

Climate change contributed to the severity of Australia’s recent wildfires. (Photo by the state government of Victoria, Dec. 30, 2019.)

Mr. Delouya, as you know, tar sands crude oil is a particularly dirty fossil fuel. The environmental impact statement you endorsed states that the new Line 3 would contribute $287 billion in climate damage worldwide over three decades. The Guardian equated that to the pollution created by constructing 50 new coal-fired power plants.

Your government has stated a goal to be a “clean energy leader.” Canada’s plan for climate change and clean growth says:

The transition to a cleaner future represents a massive economic opportunity for Canada and the world–even without factoring in the rising costs of inaction and more intense natural disasters. Bold action on climate change is expected to spur at least $26 trillion in economic growth and create as many as 65 million jobs globally by 2030.

Reducing pollution and putting the right environmental and economic policies in place now will help position Canadian businesses to take advantage of this transition. Already, Canada is seeing the economic benefits of action on climate change …

If a transition to a cleaner future is so promising, why are you so dug in supporting the dirty tar sands industry? Your letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Enbridge Line 3 makes a weak effort to address the question. You write:

Canada is committed to meet or exceed its Paris Agreement target of reducing GHG [Green House Gas] emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Along with Norway, Canada is the only major oil-producing nation that has implemented national carbon pricing. …

Canada believes that the Line 3 Replacement project does not affect the emissions projections that underpin the plan to meet or exceed Canada’s 2030 target. The Government of Canada approved the Line 3 Replacement project because it fits within its climate Plan.

You acknowledge climate change is a problem. You know Line 3 will add significantly to climate damage. So just because Line 3 could be built and supposedly stay within Canada’s pollution budget doesn’t mean the project should be built.

Exceeding the goals you set should be a good thing. Again, please withdraw your support for Line 3. It’s an old, dirty, and dying technology. Exceed the climate goals you set for your country and the world will thank you.

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