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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

 

 

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