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Vancouver Aquarium Forced to Give Up On Whale & Dolphin Captivity

Animal Justice January 18, 2018

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium announced today that it would give up on its decades-long fight to continue to imprison and display whales and dolphins in tiny tanks.

Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, issued the following statement.

“The Vancouver Aquarium appears to have finally accepted that whale and dolphin captivity is no longer socially acceptable in Canada. Today’s announcement is a tremendous victory for the thousands of compassionate citizens who stood up against the cruel practice of keeping smart, sentient whales and dolphins imprisoned in tiny tanks.

“But the Aquarium’s new position comes extremely late in the game. For decades, the Aquarium has fought tooth and nail against attempts to restrict or prohibit whale and dolphin captivity at its facility. The Aquarium is now backing down from this fight, but only after years of being the target of protests, being embroiled in lawsuits, and hit with a ban on cetacean captivity imposed by Vancouver’s Park Board.

“The writing is on the wall for the whale and dolphin captivity industry. We are relieved that no more cetaceans will suffer and die at the Aquarium.”

The Aquarium recently lost a court case seeking to silence filmmaker Gary Charbonneau and his critical documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered.

The Aquarium is still suing the Park Board in an attempt to overturn the anti-captivity by-law, claiming it restricts the Aquarium’s freedom of expression. Animal Justice intervened in that case, which has already been heard. The judge in that case is expected to issue a ruling shortly.

A bill moving through the Canadian Senate would impose a nation-wide ban on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. It is expected to be voted on when Parliament resumes later this month.

Meanwhile, several whales and dolphins recently died at the Aquarium, including beluga whales Qila and Aurora in late 2016, porpoise Daisy in June, 2017, and false killer whale Chester in November, 2017. The only surviving cetacean at the Aquarium is a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

 

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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!

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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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