OTTAWA – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding Parliament for passing Bill S-203, historic legislation that bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. The House of Commons voted in favour of the bill at third reading today. “This is a watershed moment for whales and dolphins, and powerful recognition that our country no… Read more » Animal Justice
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After nearly three years of delay and obstruction, a bill to ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity has finally passed through the Canadian Senate. Senators voted to pass Bill S-203 late on Tuesday, and the legislation will now make its way to the House of Commons for further debate and voting. This groundbreaking legislation is now half-way to becoming law!
The legislation bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, breeding them, as well as import and export. There are exceptions for legitimate rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
Only two aquariums still imprison whales and dolphins in Canada—Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. The two aquariums fought the legislation at every stage, and pro-aquarium senators repeatedly attempted to kill, block, and delay Bill S-203. Most recently, Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett tried to amend the bill to exempt Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium, which would have made the legislation meaningless. Senator Don Plett’s delay tactics were finally defeated on Tuesday, and at last the bill was allowed to come to a vote.
Animal Justice has been fighting to help pass this bill from the beginning. Bill S-203 enjoys broad public support from Canadians, and it was saved more than once by the incredible advocacy of people who emailed senators, made phone calls, and shared information about Bill S-203 on social media. In June 2017, the Senate email system was swamped by emails from the public when it looked like pro-aquarium senators were mobilizing to kill the bill.
Bill S-203 has also attracted support from politicians of all political stripes. Earlier this year, Members of Parliament from the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Greens joined Animal Justice and Humane Society International at a press conference to call for an end to Senate obstruction so the bill could move to the House of Commons.
Bill S-203 was first introduced in December 2015 by Senator Wilfred Moore. After Senator Moore’s retirement, it was sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair. Green Party leader Elizabeth May will sponsor the bill in the House of Commons.
Over a dozen other jurisdictions around the world have already banned keeping some or all cetaceans in tanks, including Mexico, France, South Carolina, and California. Ontario banned keeping orca whales in 2015, and the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban cetacean display and captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017. The ban is now being challenged in court, but in the meantime, the Vancouver Aquarium publicly promised to end its practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
There is also hope for rescued whales and dolphins once the ban becomes law. The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to build a seaside sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or Washington, offering hope to creatures who have spent a life confined in miserable concrete tanks.
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OTTAWA – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding the Senate for passing Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. If passed, Bill S-203 would outlaw keeping whales and dolphins in tiny concrete tanks for display.
After years of delay and obstruction, the legislation passed late on Tuesday evening in a surprise vote, and will now move to the House of Commons where it will be sponsored by Green leader Elizabeth May. Bill S-203 was originally introduced by Senator Wilfred Moore in December 2015, then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair after Senator Moore retired.
Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett repeatedly used procedural delay tactics to slow down the legislation. Fed up with his efforts to block Bill S-203 from reaching a final vote, MPs from all parties joined Animal Justice and Humane Society International at a press conference in June to call for an end to the stalling tactics.
“Canadians understand that whales and dolphins are complex, intelligent beings who deserve far more than a life of boredom and misery in captivity,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “That’s why Bill S-203 has attracted such tremendous support from the public as well as politicians from all parties. Animal Justice is calling on the House of Commons to swiftly pass this groundbreaking measure to protect whales and dolphins. Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world, but banning whale and dolphin captivity would demonstrate international leadership on animals.”
After passing Bill S-203, the Senate also voted in favour of Bill S-238, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act, sponsored by Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald. Bill S-238 also has strong support across party lines.
Fast facts about Bill S-203:
- Bill S-203 would make it an offence to keep captive, breed, import, or export a whale, dolphin or porpoise. There are exemptions for cetaceans currently in captivity, as well as for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
- Bill S-203 was studied for nearly a year by the Fisheries Committee, which heard evidence from countless experts over 17 committee meetings.
- Only two Canadian facilities still keep whales and dolphins in captivity—Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. There is only one surviving dolphin at the Vancouver Aquarium after a spate of deaths, and the facility has publicly committed not to acquire any further cetaceans.
- Over a dozen other jurisdictions around the world have already banned keeping some or all cetaceans in tanks, including Mexico, France, South Carolina, and California. Ontario banned keeping orca whales in 2015, and the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban cetacean display and captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017. (The ban is being challenged in court.)
- The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to build a seaside sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or Washington.
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Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
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