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Winona LaDuke, Line 3 opponent, and local law enforcement

Indigenous environmental and land rights activist Winona LaDuke talks to Hubbard County law enforcement near the stock pile of Enbridge Pipeline 3 in Park Rapids, Minnesota on June 6, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

'The World Is Watching': Indigenous Critics of Line 3 Meet With UN Human Rights Expert

"Since the U.S. government is yet again failing Indigenous people and future generations, we turn to the international community."

Jessica Corbett

Indigenous women who are leading the fight against Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline met virtually with a United Nations expert on Tuesday to discuss human rights abuses of those who have joined the movement opposing the polluting project.

"The Biden administration has turned a blind eye, so we hope that international attention can protect the rights of our people and the water we all depend on."
—Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth

"We met with the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders because gross human rights violations are occurring at the hands of police in [a] financial relationship with Enbridge," Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska of Couchiching First Nation said in a statement.

Houska and Honor the Earth executive director Winona LaDuke of White Earth Nation have submitted a formal complaint about actions by law enforcement in Northern Minnesota to Mary Lawlor, the U.N. special rapporteur.

LaDuke and Houska, with support from the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), shared with Lawlor details about what Line 3 opponents have endured while protesting the Canadian company's effort to replace an aging pipeline with one that will have larger capacity and cross 200 waterways as well as Anishinaabe treaty territory.

When approving Line 3 in 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required a Public Safety Escrow Trust funded by Enbridge to reimburse law enforcement for policing costs related to the pipeline—an arrangement that has angered activists on the ground.

Motherboard reported earlier this month that the company has paid police $2 million through the trust. According to the Pipeline Legal Action Network, more than 700 water defenders have been arrested for actions opposing Line 3 in Minnesota.

"Minnesota law enforcement has used pain compliance, psychological trauma, threats, rubber bullets, mace, and chemical warfare on people standing up for water," Houska explained, "which it then bills to a fund Enbridge pays into to the tune of $2 million to date—most of these charges are misdemeanors, all of them are nonviolent."

"We pose no threat. Enbridge threatens Anishinaabe cultural survival, the drinking water of millions, and the public's trust," she added. "Since the U.S. government is yet again failing Indigenous people and future generations, we turn to the international community. The world is watching."

LaDuke thanked Lawlor "for putting attention on what's happening in Northern Minnesota, where an international fossil fuel corporation is once again brutalizing Indigenous people to expand the footprint of its toxic and unneeded tar sands oil project."

"State and local government are working directly at the behest of the Enbridge corporation, and the Biden administration has turned a blind eye," she said, "so we hope that international attention can protect the rights of our people and the water we all depend on."

The meeting occurred on the same day as a national day of solidarity against Line 3 held by U.S. health professionals—who sent a letter to President Joe Biden echoing activists' demands, urging him to block the project like he did the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline earlier this year.

"Line 3 cuts through the heart of the Anishinaabe territory in Minnesota, violating treaty rights, damaging sacred wild rice beds, and threatening the health of our Indigenous communities, who have already experienced generations of oppression and trauma due to exploitation of their land and their people," the letter says. "Health professionals across the country stand in solidarity with our Indigenous leaders who are putting their bodies on the line to defend sacred water, land, and climate."


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