Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 29, 2021

'No Man Camps' Enbridge Line 3 Subcontractors Arrested in Human Trafficking Operation

Two Enbridge Line 3 Subcontractors Arrested in Multi-Agency Anti-Human Trafficking Operation

State Senator Kunesh: “They were told it would happen. They were warned by the victims themselves.”

By Honor the Earth
Censored News
June 28, 2021

BEMIDJI, Minnesota -- Today, the Bemidji Pioneer reported that “six people, including two men from Bemidji working under subcontractors on the Line 3 replacement project, were arrested during a recent human trafficking operation in Beltrami County over the course of two days.”

In response, Minnesota State Senator Mary Kunesh released the following statement:

“They were told it would happen.

The women testifiers warned the public and Minnesota PUC (Public Utilities Commission) with their hearts in their voices and tears in their eyes, but were scoffed at, laughed at, and blatantly disrespected as their testimony was dismissed with the arrogance of white patriarchy.

They were the voices of American Indian women who are survivors of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by men who sought to tether and control their vulnerable through addiction and violence to traffic them for sex. They spoke in alarm against the licensing of Canadian multinational corporation Enbridge and a new Line 3 pipeline.

The violence against native communities with Enbridge’s last pipeline project, the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, still fresh in their minds.

I find it ironic that today, the final day of Minnesota’s historical MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) task force meeting, we receive the news of new arrests from the second sex trafficking sting operation, this time in Beltrami County. 

Fresh from a productive weekend, Bobbi Jo Pazdernik of the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigations Task Force relayed the newest swath of arrests six men who had responded to an advertisement placed on a sex ads website. They have been booked into the Beltrami County Jail on solicitation of prostitution and commercial sex. At least two of these men are subcontractors of Enbridge’s Line 3.

The first sex trafficking sting in February this year resulted in two of Enbridge's Line 3 employees charged in an Itasca County human trafficking bust. Enbridge will tout zero tolerance for illegal behavior and terminate their workers - but what do you expect when you flood rural communities with 4000 men, flush with cash, time on their hands? They were warned, by the victims themselves.”

According to the paper, “the suspects responded to an advertisement placed on a sex ads website,” and were arrested and booked into the Beltrami County Jail.

A previous sting operation in February 2021 resulted in seven men being arrested for sex trafficking in Minnesota, and 2 of them worked on the Line 3 pipeline. Coinciding with the pipeline project, there has also been an increase in calls to crisis centers to report harassment and abuse.

Honor the Earth’s Winona LaDuke also released the following statement:

“In less than six months, four sub-contractors working on Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline have been arrested in sex trafficking stings, first in Itasca County and now in Beltrami County. As experts and Indigenous women predicted, this pipeline project has brought men into our communities who have chosen to prey on our women.

"It is truly horrifying to imagine that, if four men have been arrested just how many more are out there seeking to bring harm to Indigenous women—a group that is already more at risk of becoming victims of sexual violence than any other demographic in our country.”

“Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan have expressed their concern for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but the task force that they have established is meaningless while they continue to condone the criminal behavior of men working on this pipeline.”

“These men are not an aberration. These arrests have been long predicted, and they probably will not be the last. How many women and girls will have to fall victim to predators working on this unnecessary pipeline that carries hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic tar sands oil into our communities?"

"While millions of dollars of public resources have been spent to harass and abuse peaceful protestors, who is looking out for our women and girls?"

“We call upon Governor Tim Walz and President Joe Biden to take a stand for Indigenous women and girls and immediately stop construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.”

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