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Animal Protection Groups Ask to Intervene in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit

Animal Justice August 16, 2017

VANCOUVER – Animal Justice and Zoocheck are seeking leave at the British Columbia Supreme Court to intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The Aquarium is suing in an attempt to overturn the bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park.

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. The two organizations filed a joint intervention application this week.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are deeply troubled by the Aquarium’s legal arguments, in particular the claim that its practice of confining cetaceans in captivity is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals in captivity 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.

If granted leave to intervene, Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that the capture, captivity, and confinement of 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.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this troubling lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice.  “We hope to have an opportunity to explain this to the court.”

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaugh Wils & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The Animal Justice and Zoocheck application to intervene 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, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

Julie Woodyer
Campaigns Director
julie@zoocheck.com

Animal Justice

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Animal Justice Intervening in Vancouver Aquarium Copyright Appeal at BC Court of Appeal

Animal Justice March 19, 2017

VANCOUVER – National animal law organization Animal Justice will argue before the BC Court of Appeal on Monday as an intervener in an important appeal that could affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty in Canada.

The case is an appeal from a decision of the BC Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by the Vancouver Aquarium against filmmaker Gary 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.

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. The BC Court of Appeal granted Mr. Charbonneau leave to appeal the injunction.

Animal Justice will intervene to argue that if the injunction decision is not overturned, secretive animal use industries will 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 is also intervening in the appeal.

Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, will be available for comment following the appeal, along with Mr. Charbonneau and his lawyer Arden Beddoes.

Animal Justice is represented by Bryan McLean of Lindsay LLP.

What:
The BC Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case of Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre v. Gary Charbonneau

When:
Monday, March 20, 2017
Supporters of Mr. Charbonneau will gather at 9:00 a.m. outside the courthouse for a rally
Court begins at 10:00 a.m. PT

Where:
BC Court of Appeal, Room 60
900 Smithe Street, Vancouver

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

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Canadian Senator: “We Should See Cetaceans As Our Equals, As Living Beings”

Animal Justice March 2, 2017

Committee hearings got underway this week on Bill S-203, a Senate bill that would ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity in Canada. This groundbreaking bill would protect sensitive and complex whales and dolphins from a being imprisoned in tiny tanks, where they are denied almost everything that makes life worth living.

The first witness questioned by the Fisheries and Oceans Committee was former Senator Wilfred Moore, who championed the bill from the very beginning and spoke eloquently about the need to protect whales and dolphins. But it was Senator Daniel Christmas who stole the show with his insightful and poignant comments on the human relationship with nonhuman animals. Senator Christmas explained how his aboriginal upbringing taught him to respect animals, viewing them not as objects to be used for human purposes, but as equals—living beings with their own families and languages.

“Something tells me in my mind that [seeing animals as objects] is the wrong approach; that we really have to see cetaceans as our equals, as living beings. And if I had an opportunity to ask a beluga, I think I would ask them, ‘What is best for your family?’ And I would be very interested to find out what that answer would be.”

The answer, of course, is increasingly clear. Scientific evidence tells us that cetaceans live much richer, more fulfilling lives in the ocean, where they enjoy complex social and family relationships, cooperative food gathering strategies, and the freedom to swim vast distances, dive deeply, and find their own food. Forcing these complex mammals to live in tiny tanks is undeniably cruel, and many other countries and states have already enhanced legal protections for whales and dolphins. Meanwhile, only two facilities in the country still confine whales and dolphins—the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia, and Marineland in Ontario. Cetacean captivity is a dying industry.

Canadians increasingly think about animals like Senator Christmas does: Not as mere objects, but as living beings who deserve our respect and strong legal protections. Passing Bill S-203 would be a huge step toward helping these vulnerable creatures, so please take action today: Encourage Parliamentarians to save these sensitive creatures from captive misery!

You can find the upcoming hearing schedule online, as well as full webcast recordings of past committee meetings. Future meetings will be broadcast live, so it’s easy to track the progress of this important legislation.

Animal Justice

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