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B.C. Court Strikes Down Vancouver Aquarium Whale & Dolphin Ban

Animal Justice February 9, 2018

VANCOUVER – National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is responding to the decision from the B.C. Supreme Court quashing, in part, a municipal bylaw aimed at preventing whales and dolphins from suffering in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Aquarium sought to overturn the Park Board bylaw passed in May, 2017 that bans confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Vancouver parks, including the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The Aquarium argued that it had a constitutional right to confine whales and dolphins. Animal Justice and Zoocheck focused on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal claim that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The groups argued that confining whales is harmful and violent conduct not deserving of protection.

The Court decided that the anti-captivity bylaw did not apply to the Aquarium because of a licensing agreement signed between the Park Board and the Aquarium in 1999, which runs until 2029. In other words, the case hinged on an issue of contractual interpretation. The Court declined to consider the issue of free expression as it was not necessary to decide the case.

On January 18, 2018 the Aquarium announced that it would stop confining whales and dolphins after public pressure.

“The Aquarium made the disturbing claim that it has a constitutional right to keep sensitive, intelligent marine mammals in tiny tanks, a practice Canadians no longer find acceptable. The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim could have permanently undermined animal protection laws right across Canada. We are pleased that the Court did not grant this right, and that other governments remain free to pass laws protecting animals.

“Ultimately, the Vancouver Aquarium was already forced last month to end its whale and dolphin captivity program due to public outrage over this cruel and outdated practice. A little over one year ago, there were five whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Today, only one remains alive. We are pleased that no further vulnerable cetaceans will languish in captive misery at the Aquarium.

“The curtain is closing on whale and dolphin captivity in Canada. Senate Bill S-203, which would ban captivity and captive breeding nation-wide, is moving forward through Parliament, and just this week, the federal government introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-68. The bill includes a ban on capturing cetaceans for confinement and empowers the government to restrict imports of cetaceans into the country. It is clear that whale and dolphin captivity is an archaic, dying practice that will soon be outlawed.”

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. Animal Justice and Zoocheck were represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The B.C. Supreme Court decision in Ocean Wise Conservation Association v. Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation 2018 BCSC 196 is available here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
613-292-8360
camille@animaljustice

Arden Beddoes
Counsel to Animal Justice
778-873-6493
abeddoes@arvayfinlay.ca

 

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Animal Justice

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Animal Justice & Zoocheck Intervening in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit Today

Animal Justice December 7, 2017

VANCOUVER – Animal Justice and Zoocheck will intervene today in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The case begins today at 10:00am at the Vancouver Supreme Court in courtroom 53. The arguments from both groups are expected to be heard today.

The Aquarium is seeking to strike down the Park Board bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park. Animal Justice and Zoocheck will focus on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal argument that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals for entertainment is found to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression, there could be drastic consequences for animals. It would become difficult, if not impossible, to pass laws protecting animals from being confined as those laws would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this disturbing lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “We will argue in court to protect whales and dolphins, and other animals across the country, from the suffering they endure in captivity. A little over one year ago, there were five whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Today, only one remains alive. These vulnerable animals deserve deliverance from captive misery.”

Beluga whales Qila and Aurora died in November, 2016. Harbour porpoise Daisy died in May, 2017, the same day the Aquarium filed its lawsuit challenging the Park Board ban. Last month, false killer whale Chester died of a bacterial infection.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that confining cetaceans should not be considered ‘expression’. The organizations rely on well-established case law stating that expression that is violent or is connected with violence is not protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. Capturing and confining whales and dolphins are forms of violence, in that they involve the coercion and involuntary captivity of living beings who have complex thought, the ability to suffer, and the capacity for self-determination. Confining cetaceans has been shown to cause significant physical and psychological harm to them.

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The Animal Justice and Zoocheck factum can be downloaded here.

The Aquarium’s petition can be downloaded here.

The Parks Board’s response to the petition can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
613-292-8360
camille@animaljustice

Arden Beddoes
Counsel to Animal Justice
778-873-6493
abeddoes@farris.com

 

Stay in touch by joining the Animal Justice mailing list!

Yes, I want to stay in touch! 

Animal Justice

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B.C. Court of Appeal Rejects Vancouver Aquarium’s Attempt to Silence Documentary

Animal Justice November 15, 2017

VANCOUVER – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding a B.C. Court of Appeal decision that overturns an injunction issued at the request of the Vancouver Aquarium against documentary filmmaker Gary Charbonneau.

The case is an appeal from a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by the Vancouver Aquarium against Charbonneau over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposes the cruelty of keeping sentient whales and dolphins in captivity at the Aquarium. The Aquarium sued Mr. Charbonneau for alleged copyright violations, and sought an injunction to remove the film from the internet. In April 2016, the injunction judge ordered that several minutes of footage must be removed from the film.

Animal Justice intervened in the case out of concern that the lawsuit could affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty in Canada. Legal experts have called the Aquarium’s lawsuit an abuse of copyright law and an illegitimate attempt to silence free speech on a matter of public importance.

Animal Justice argued that if the injunction were not overturned, secretive animal use industries would be emboldened to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty. The BC Civil Liberties Association also intervened in the appeal.

Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, said:

“Today’s decision is an incredible victory for animals and free speech. Animal Justice intervened in the case to ensure the Aquarium’s lawsuit would not give industries another tool to silence whistleblowers and undercover investigations. It is critical to protect individuals who film and expose hidden cruelty in aquariums, zoos, farms, and other animal use industries.

“The Court of Appeal acknowledged Animal Justice’s contribution to the case, and the importance of protecting individuals who seek to bring public scrutiny to animal cruelty issues.

“This decision is the latest nail in the coffin of the cruel aquarium industry. As the public wakes up to the suffering that cetaceans endure when confined in tiny tanks, citizens are demanding that lawmakers ban keeping whales and dolphins in tanks at aquariums.”

In May, 2017 the Vancouver Park Board banned the Aquarium from the future acquisition, breeding, or performance of whale and dolphins. The Aquarium is challenging the bylaw in a separate court case that will conclude during the first week of December, 2017. Animal Justice will make intervener submissions in that proceeding as well.

The Senate of Canada is currently considering Bill S-203, which would impose a national ban on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

Animal Justice was represented in the intervention by Bryan McLean of Lindsay LLP.

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The B.C. Court of Appeal decision can be read here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

 

 

Stay in touch by joining the Animal Justice mailing list!

Yes, I want to stay in touch! 

Animal Justice

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