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Line 5 pipeline between U.S. and Canada could cause 'devastating damage' to Great Lakes, say environmentalists – CBC.ca

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An aging pipeline that carries oil along the bottom of the ecologically sensitive and turbulent Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is in such a state of disrepair it could burst at any moment and cause catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes, environmentalists warn. 

Line 5, a 1,000-kilometre-long pipeline owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ont., where it is shipped to other refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

It’s at the centre of a politically charged dispute between Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who’s ordered what she calls the “ticking time bomb” to be shut down, and Canadian officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who’ve sided with Enbridge in insisting it’s safe to keep running.

“Over the past year, I have both written and spoken to the Governor to express my disappointment and stress the importance of Line 5 in ensuring economic, environmental and energy security to the entire Great Lakes Region,” Ford said in a statement to CBC News.

“Our government believes pipelines are a safe way to transport essential fuels across the Great Lakes, operating in accordance with the highest pipeline safety standards.”

Enbridge says Line 5 is safe and saves the hassle of transporting huge amounts of fuel by truck or train.

But Michelle Woodhouse, water program manager at Toronto-based Environmental Defence, said it’s time to put politics aside and cut through Enbridge’s “manufactured narrative.” She says the danger the pipeline poses to the Great Lakes is too risky to take “a gamble.” 

Line 5 has leaked oil before

Line 5 was designed in 1953 to have a lifespan of 50 years, or until 2003. Eighteen years later, it’s still running, and has had its fair share of problems, said Woodhouse. 

“This is a very old, deteriorating, dangerous pipeline that has already leaked significant amounts of oil into the surrounding lands and water that it crosses through,” she said.

Since 1953, Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling 4.5 million litres of oil into the environment, according to media reports.

The pipeline has also repeatedly violated safety standards, said the State of Michigan’s court filings against Enbridge in 2020. Recently, a ship’s anchor struck and damaged the pipeline in 2018 and contractors mistakenly damaged its supports in 2019, which wasn’t discovered for a year, Michigan’s complaint said. 

A television screen provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy shows damage to anchor support on the east leg of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline within the Straits of Mackinac. (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy/The Associated Press)

A spill would cause “devastating damage” to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan’s shorelines, compromising drinking water, fisheries, businesses and homes, said Woodhouse. 

Dianne Saxe, the former environmental commissioner of Ontario and now deputy leader of the Ontario Green Party, said if Line 5 did leak in the Straits of Mackinac, it would create “an enormous cloud of pollution” that would disrupt intricate fish ecosystems and also flow downstream to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. 

“It’s running under one of the most dangerous places in the Great Lakes, where there is highly turbulent waters,” Saxe said. 

A University of Michigan study from 2014 corroborates this. Researchers found strong currents in the straits, which switch directions every few days, would contaminate shorelines up to 80 kilometres away within a few days.

Enbridge says pipeline in good condition

Enbridge spokesperson Tracy Larsson said every year, the company inspects Line 5’s twin pipes that cross the Straits of Mackinac, which are made of “thick seamless steel” and have been shown to be in good condition. She also said that Line 5’s lifespan is determined by inspections and maintenance, not when it was built. 

Enbridge is also spending $500 million Cdn to build a tunnel through the straits to cover and protect Line 5. 

“Ultimately, the Great Lakes Tunnel is the common sense solution to meeting Michigan’s energy needs while protecting the Great Lakes, our communities and waterways,” Larsson said. 

However, the upgrade likely won’t be done for years, as President Joe Biden’s administration recently ordered a rigorous environmental review. 

Natural Resources Canada told CBC News the alternative to Line 5 would be shipping fuel on 800 rail cars and 2,000 trucks a day across Canada, plus 15,000 trucks in the U.S. 

“These options are less safe, more polluting, and more expensive,” NRC said in a statement.

Woodhouse called these figures “completely overblown” and said there’s capacity within Canada’s existing transportation system to transport the oil and natural gas to meet the region’s energy needs.

She said tankers and trucks should only be a temporary solution as Canada moves away from fossil fuels, as it has pledged to do in its climate commitments. 

“We know about where things are headed with climate change and global warming,” Woodhouse said. “We have to get things done ASAP. And so the fact that these corporations and their allies are doing things like signing deals that basically send a signal that we don’t care, it’s very unsettling.” 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

‘There is no co-operation’

Whitmer recently revoked the 1953 easement that had allowed Enbridge to run Line 5 through Michigan and gave the company a May 12 deadline to stop operations, although it has not been enforced. The two parties remain locked in a court-ordered mediation process that will wrap up in August, although it’s unclear when the dispute will be resolved.

Enbridge said in a news release earlier this year it has no intentions of shutting down Line 5, and that Whitmer’s actions are unlawful and ignore science and evidence. 

Whitmer’s administration maintains Michigan can’t trust Enbridge after another of its pipelines in the state ruptured in 2010, “causing one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history,” press secretary Bobby Leddy said in a statement.

“If Enbridge continues to operate the pipeline beyond the deadline, the state will seek to disgorge the company of its profits earned while unlawfully trespassing on state land,” Leddy said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said if Line 5 is shut down, his city would lose up to 5,000 well-paying jobs. He said the action would also significantly impact communities across Ontario and Quebec that use the oil and natural gas to manufacture more than 600 products.

He said every time he’s attempted to raise his concerns with Whitmer, she hasn’t responded.

“The governor of Michigan has done incredible damage to the relationship between Ontario and Michigan,” Bradley said. “And that’s what’s disturbing. There is no co-operation when there should be.” 

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Prince Charles and Camilla wrap up Platinum Jubilee visit in Northwest Territories

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YELLOWKNIFE — Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, took part in ceremonies and learned about Indigenous language in the Northwest Territories Thursday as their royal visit wrapped up.

They were greeted by a large group at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation community of Dettah. The First Nation east of Yellowknife has a population of just over 200 people and dozens came out to shake hands with the couple and take part in a ceremonial lighting of a fire.

The prince also took part in a round dance with community members and learned about traditional tools.

“It’s very emotional for me,” said 53-year-old Eileen Drygeese.

Drygeese said her parents and grandparents would tell stories about when they met the royals during a tour in the 1970s when Prince Charles was a teenager. She gave Camilla a medicine bundle to represent the women of her family and their history together.

Some members did not support the visit, Drygeese said, but added they understand the power of showcasing their community and culture.

Many of those who came were wearing orange clothing and other items with the words “every child matters” representing the legacy of residential schools.

Charles was given a pair of moosehide moccasins before he joined Dettah Chief Edward Sangris, Ndilo Chief Fred Sangris and other Indigenous leaders for a private meeting.

The trip has been shaped by Canada’s reckoning with its relationship and history with Indigenous people as possible graves continue to be found at the sites of former residential schools across the country.

The three-day tour began Tuesday in Newfoundland and Labrador, where Prince Charles recognized the visit came at an important moment.

“We must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past, acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better,” he said.

During a Platinum Jubilee reception at Rideau Hall on Wednesday, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon encouraged the couple to listen to Indigenous leaders, elders and community members in the North.

RoseAnne Archibald, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said during the reception that she asked the prince for a formal apology from the Queen, as head of the Church of England.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Thursday that while all effective power rests with the government, not with the Queen, he understands comments from the royals could be important to some Indigenous people.

“It’s nuanced,” he said. “There are some Indigenous Peoples ⁠ — much like non-Indigenous people ⁠ — who couldn’t care less. There are many who have a profound deep connection to the Royal Family.”

The couple were greeted earlier Thursday on the tarmac by Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty and Margaret Thom, the commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

They were also presented with flowers wrapped in birch tree bark by a young student from the K’alemi Dene School,

While Charles met with leaders, the duchess stopped at a school to hear about programs aimed at preserving Indigenous languages. There, she took part in a demonstration with a greenscreen and puppets, as well as stop-motion animation.

“Very clever,” Camilla said about the animation project.

Later, Charles was made an honorary Canadian Ranger at an event in Yellowknife. Rangers are a part of the Canadian Army Reserve in northern and isolated areas.

The prince also met with local experts to discuss climate change and permafrost.

The last royal visit to Northwest Territories was in 2011, when Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, were welcomed by large crowds during a one-day stop in the North during a whirlwind first royal tour for the newlyweds.

This royal visit was to culminate with a celebration in Yellowknife in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Liberals revive bill to create watchdog for Canada Border Services Agency

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are rekindling a plan to allow travellers, immigration detainees and others who feel they have been mistreated by Canada’s border agency to complain to an independent body.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino introduced legislation Thursday to give the RCMP watchdog the additional responsibility of handling public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency.

The bill to create the Public Complaints and Review Commission comes after previous versions died on the order paper.

Border officers can stop travellers for questioning, take blood and breath samples and search, detain and arrest people without warrants.

An internal agency unit handles complaints from the public, while other bodies, including the courts, the federal privacy commissioner and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, examine various concerns.

But the border agency is not overseen by a dedicated, independent complaints and review body, prompting civil liberties advocates, refugee lawyers and parliamentary committees to call for stronger monitoring.

The government proposes spending $112 million over five years, and more than $19 million a year ongoing, to establish the new body, which would replace the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

Michelaine Lahaie, chairperson of the existing RCMP complaints commission, told a news conference she was pleased to see many of her key recommendations had been included in the bill.

The legislation would require both the RCMP and border agency to respond to interim reports from the new watchdog within six months — addressing a long-standing sore point.

The RCMP commissioner was taken to court over chronic foot-dragging in providing feedback on interim reports from the current complaints commission. The problem has led to lengthy delays in the public release of final reports and recommendations.

“Codifying the timelines is a way to ensure that we remain vigilant going forward,” Mendicino said.

The RCMP and border agency would also have to report annually to the public safety minister on progress in implementing commission recommendations.

In addition, there would be race-based data collection and publication to increase knowledge of systemic racism in law enforcement and guide responses.

The new Public Complaints and Review Commission would carry out specified reviews of any non-national-security activities of the RCMP and border services agency, either on the commission’s own initiative or at the request of the minister.

It would also conduct complaint-related investigations concerning both agencies, which include:

— receiving complaints from the public about conduct and level of service;

— reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP or border agency’s handling of their concerns; and

— initiating complaints and investigations into conduct when it is in the public interest to do so.

“Ultimately, this legislation is about strengthening our law enforcement agencies by strengthening accountability, transparency and in our trust in them, and it will lead to a safer country for everyone,” Mendicino said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Five reasons Quebec’s language law reform is stirring controversy

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MONTREAL — A protest against Quebec’s proposed overhaul of its language law drew a large crowd in Montreal on Saturday. The government says Bill 96 is a moderate reform that will improve protection for French while preserving English services, but critics say the bill will limit access to health care and justice, cost college teachers their jobs and increase red tape for small businesses.

Here are five reasons the bill, expected to be passed before the summer, is under fire:

Health care

Marlene Jennings, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, an anglophone advocacy group, says the law could prevent hundreds of thousands of English speakers from accessing health care in their language. The bill requires government agencies, including health services, to communicate with the public in French except “where health, public safety or the principles of natural justice so require.”

There are also exceptions for people who have the right to English education in Quebec, those who have previously communicated with the government in English and immigrants who have lived in the province for less than six months.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault offered assurances that the law won’t affect access to health services in English, but Jennings is skeptical. “We already have problems, when language hasn’t been made an issue, to access quality health-care services in a timely fashion. Bill 96 is going to compound those problems,” she said in an interview.

Education

The bill would require all students at English junior colleges to take three additional courses in French. Students with English education rights — those who have a parent or sibling who was educated in English in Canada — will be allowed to take courses on the French language, but other students will have to take other subjects, such as history or biology, in French.

Adding French-language classes in English institutions will be a challenge, said Adam Bright, an English literature teacher at Dawson College in Montreal. Because the law would require students without English education rights to take a French exit exam, Bright predicts few of those students will choose English literature courses, making it more difficult for them to succeed in their other classes.

He said his union expects the changes would lead to staffing cuts in the English department. “My wife is also an English literature teacher at Dawson, so if this bill goes through, both of us are going to lose our jobs,” he said in an interview.

Red tape for businesses 

The bill would expand provisions of the province’s language laws, which previously only applied to businesses with 50 or more employees, to those with 25 or more.

François Vincent, Quebec vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, estimates that complying with the law after it comes into effect will involve 20 to 50 hours of paperwork for business owners. Some businesses may have to hire consultants to help. While Vincent said it’s important to help people learn French, he doesn’t think that additional red tape will do that.

“Asking a small garage or a small restaurant in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean that’s working 100 per cent in French to fill out paperwork so that the Office québécois de la langue française will say ‘Congratulations, you work in French,’ will not change anything,” he said in an interview.

Access to justice

The bill would require all court filings by businesses to be in French or translated into French and empower the minister of justice and the minister responsible for the French language to decide which provincial court judges need to be bilingual.

It calls for amending pieces of legislation — including Quebec’s Charter of the French Language, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Consumer Protection Act and Montreal’s city charter.

Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal human rights lawyer, said that complexity can make it hard to see the extent of the changes being proposed. “Access to justice isn’t just going to court and being able to get there, it’s also being able to understand the law,” she said.

Warrantless search and seizure

The bill would proactively invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to protect it from charter challenges.

Among the elements of the bill that would be shielded is a provision granting language inspectors the power to engage in search and seizure operations without a warrant. Eliadis said inspectors are not required to show reasonable grounds or reasonable suspicion before conducting a search related to the law.

“It’s more than a group of administrative rules designed to bolster French, because they’ve deliberately gone into each part of the act where constitutional rights can be invoked and essentially, with one sweep of the brush … disappeared an entire swath of our constitutional protections, leaving us with no remedy,” she said. “I worry the rule of law is being diminished.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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