Mylene Vialard faces 5-years in prison for peacefully resisting the Canadian Line 3 pipeline in the United States
Photo: Mylene Vialard (on a 25-bamboo tower) says: “Enbridge Corporation is the one destroying the land, is the one destroying the traditional way of life of Indigenous people, is the one altering the ecology and the environment, is the one denying the right to ceremony to the Indigenous people. All I did was say, ‘No.’”
Nina Lakhani reports in The Guardian that 54-year-old Boulder, Colorado-based activist Mylene Vialard is facing up to five years in prison for her role in resisting the construction of the 760,000 barrel per day Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota.
The Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. tar sands pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. It is 1,659 kilometres in length, the majority of which is in Canada with the remaining 585 kilometres in the United States.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the construction of the pipeline on November 29, 2016, the same day that he also approved the Trans Mountain pipeline now being built on Secwepemc territory without consent.
Photo: Trudeau government announces its approval of the Line 3 pipeline.
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has documented that the top five financiers of Enbridge are Canadian banks: TD Bank, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, RBC and CIBC. Collectively they have provided billions of dollars in financing to Enbridge.
Export Development Canada, Canada’s export credit agency, also provided up to $5.78 billion to Enbridge between January 2010 and April 2020.
Photo: Mylene Vialard.
Vialard faces a felony obstruction charge after attaching herself in August 2021 to a 25-foot bamboo tower erected to block a pumping station in Aitkin county. She refused to take a plea deal and her week-long trial begins on Monday August 28.
Vialard says: “I couldn’t sign a piece of paper saying I was guilty because I’m not the guilty party here. Enbridge is guilty, the violation of treaty rights, the pollution, the risk to water, that is what’s wrong. I’m just using my voice to point out something that’s wrong.”
Lakhani notes: “Minnesota environmental regulators have confirmed four groundwater aquifer breaches along the new pipeline – including one last month in Aitkin county, not far from where Vialard was arrested, at a wild rice lake in an area with complex wetlands and peat bogs. Enbridge, which reported gross profits of $16.55bn for the year ending June 2023, has so far been fined $11m to address the breaches, which a spokesperson said, ‘Enbridge reported transparently and corrected them consistent with plans approved by the agencies.’”
Lakhani further explains: “Minnesota law enforcement – which along with other agencies received at least $8.6m in payments from the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge – made more than 1,000 arrests between December 2020 and September 2021.”
“Vialard is only the second felony case to reach the trial phase, but several other Line 3 cases remain open and next month three Anishinaabe women elders – Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Dawn Goodwin – will go on trial together on gross misdemeanour critical infrastructure charges related to a January 2021 protest.”
Photo: Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid, Dawn Goodwin.
Lakhani adds: “The mass arrests and criminalization of Line 3 activists is part of a nationwide – and global – trend of suppressing legitimate protests about climate and environmental harms, according to Marla Marcum, director of the Climate Disobedience Centre, which supports climate activists engaged in civil disobedience in the US.”
Marcum says: “The pattern of heavier and heavier criminalization is undeniable. It’s a tactic which aims to divide and distract activists, suppress dissent and stop ordinary folks getting involved as more and more people wake-up to the urgency of the situation … tying people up for years is a huge emotional and energy drag.”
The full article by Nina Lakhani can be read at: ‘I’m not the guilty one’: the water protector facing jail time for trying to stop a pipeline (The Guardian, August 27, 2023).
Further reading: Colorado-Based Water Protector Faces Trial for Involvement in Line 3 Pipeline Protest: ‘I Don’t Feel Guilty. Enbridge Should Feel Guilty.’ (Ms. Magazine, August 3, 2023).