On Monday, June 10, Canada passed Bill S-203, groundbreaking legislation to outlaw whale and dolphin captivity. Once the bill comes into effect, it will be a criminal offence to capture wild whales and dolphins from the ocean, confine them in tanks, breed them, or make them perform. The import or export of whales and dolphins… Read more » Animal Justice
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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was already forced last month to end its whale and dolphin captivity program due to public outrage over this cruel and outdated practice.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.
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:
Counsel to Animal Justice
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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.
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:
Executive Director, Animal Justice
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