Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create offences respecting cetaceans in captivity. It also amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the taking of a cetacean into captivity and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to require a permit for the import of a cetacean into Canada and the export of a cetacean from Canada.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:05 a.m.
See context


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to this important issue today.

I want to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing Bill S-203 to the House. The bill looks at the reality of phasing out the captivity of dolphins, whales and porpoises.

The riding that I represent, North Island—Powell River, is along the ocean, and these are beings that we live with. That interaction is very important to us. I think of the times I have spent watching this wildlife engage with us in their free natural state. It is important that we are talking about this issue here today.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my caucus colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, for his dedication to the country's oceans, rivers and streams. His commitment to protecting the wildlife that lives within them has resonated with people across Canada. He will not be sitting in the House with us much longer, so it is important to acknowledge the work he has done on files like this one.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has always had a special place in my heart because he represents the area where I grew up. I really respect his connection with the communities in that largest of ridings in British Columbia.

A couple of weeks ago, the member came to my riding to talk about his private member's bill on zero waste packaging. That issue is a huge concern in my riding. Packaging made of plastic takes so long to deteriorate and we know the impact it is having on our oceans.

Without that member's work we would not be standing here today debating Bill S-203. I understand that he is working with the minister right now to push forward his important piece of legislation around zero waste packaging. It deals with an important issue to make sure we do not fill our landfills with plastics anymore.

If it were not for the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley accepting a letter from me, the member for Courtenay—Alberni, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, our colleague from Victoria and Laurel Collins asking him to give up his spot on today's private members' hour, we would not be debating this bill today. I want to acknowledge that and thank him for continuing to work so hard on his zero waste packaging legislation. He will not give up, which is something that I appreciate deeply about the member.

Bill S-203 proposes to phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canada, except in situations like rehabilitation or rescue.

New Democrats will always support the ethical and useful research of these beings in the water, but the research can take place in the wild. Scientists in the wild environment can get a realistic view of the natural behaviours of these animals without causing a lifetime of pain and suffering, which we know is the reality when they are held in captivity.

What we have heard from scientists is that these beings suffer in confinement. They suffer a sense of isolation, serious health problems, reduced lifespans, high infant mortality rates, sensory deprivation, as well as trauma from the transfer to other parks and calf separation.

This bill speaks to an important issue where we can get it right and do the right thing. Given the evidence, captive facilities cannot provide for these beings' social or biological needs.

Keeping them in captivity is cruel. They are intelligent social animals. They are acoustically sensitive marine beings that spend their time in the vast oceans. They dive deep down to places many of us will never see.

When we look at their freedom in the wild, to swim freely, to dive deeply, when we think about their confinement, it is so much less. We have heard it is less than 1% of the range that they are used to. Can members imagine that? None of us in this place can imagine being in our environment, doing the things that we do, and suddenly being put into a small box and told that we have to be successful and perform for other people. We cannot ask these beings to do that.

It reminds me of what Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better.” This is an opportunity in this House to move forward because we now know better, so it is time for us to do better.

Unlike many issues, this really is not a partisan issue. It is a moral issue. It is a bill that is supported by science. We know that whales, porpoises and dolphins in captivity suffer in a way that cannot be justifiable. We know that this bill, Bill S-203, is a reasonable one. It is a balanced piece of legislation. It grandfathers the process and it gives zoos and aquariums time to phase out this practice. This is the right thing to do and I hope everyone in this House takes the opportunity to support this.

When we think about the grandfathering process out of captivity that Bill S-203 proposes, we know it will do important things. It will ban live captures under the Fisheries Act, except for rescues when some being out there needs help. Currently, captures are legal if they are licensed. We all need to pause and take a moment to think about what that means. We know that the last capture that happened was belugas near Churchill in 1992, so it is a practice that is not being implemented. However, the fact that it is still there is very concerning, and this bill would remove it.

Bill S-203 also bans imports and exports, except if licensed for scientific research. This is a hard one, but we want to see an open water sanctuary. We want to see the process happen in a way that is best for the whale, the dolphin or the porpoise. We want to make sure it is under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. These are important factors that this bill can bring forward.

Finally, this bill would ban breeding under the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code. This is also very important.

Right now there is a bill before the Senate, Bill C-68, that would prohibit the captures but it would not restrict imports or exports by law nor would it ban breeding. This is why we need this bill. This is why I will be supporting it. This is the action that needs to be taken to complete what is happening already.

Twenty marine mammal biologists from around the world released a letter supporting Bill S-203. They said, “At a minimum, the maintenance of odontocetes”, in other words, toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises, “in commercial captive display facilities for entertainment purposes is no longer supported or justified by the growing body of science on their biological needs.”

We know it is the right thing to do and it is time to make sure that people have the opportunity to see these beautiful animals in the wild, to respect what they need and to create a new relationship. Keeping them enclosed is not the right way to go.

When we look at the wild, we know that dolphins, whales and porpoises travel up to 100 miles daily feeding and socializing with other members of their pods. The pods can contain hundreds of individuals with complex social bonds and hierarchies. That is their natural state. In captivity they are in small enclosures and unable to swim in a straight line for any distance. They do not have the ability to dive deep. Sometimes they are housed alone or housed with other animals they are not naturally used to being with. When we look at that isolation with this concern in mind, we know this is the right thing to do.

I look forward to seeing support from all members in this House. We can do the right thing. Today is the day and I look forward to seeing a positive vote.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
See context


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, as the chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I am proud to speak in support of Bill S-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, also known as the act for ending the captivity of whales and dolphins.

I also realize that I am speaking to the bill two days after World Oceans Day. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, and this past weekend, Canadians across the country raised awareness and celebrated our magnificent oceans. I took part in two community cleanups in Conception Bay, where I live.

While our oceans are vast and full of life, we also recognize the peril many of our ocean friends and marine ecosystems face due to threats from climate change and, of course, pollution. More than ever, we must work together to ensure that our oceans are clean and healthy for the many species that call them home, and to support our communities that depend on them.

Let us imagine whales and dolphins, which are used to having the ocean as their playground or feeding ground, being put in a cage not much bigger than a large outdoor swimming pool. Let us imagine the effect this would have on their ability to survive and flourish if they ever were released again. Let us imagine ourselves being put in a room which is 10 feet by 10 feet and being told that is where we have to live out the rest of our days. It certainly would have drastic effects on anyone, or on any animal, for that matter.

The bill has been strongly supported by my constituents of Avalon, and several members of the House have also supported the bill moving forward. I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who has been strongly advocating for the bill to move forward in the House, and all the other members who have spoken on the necessity of the bill for the protection of our whales and dolphins.

As many members know, the bill comes to us from the Senate, first by retired senator Wilfred Moore, who originally brought the bill forward in 2016, and then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair. The work of these senators cannot go without mention. I would like to thank them for their leadership when it comes to the protection of our oceans and the species that call them home.

Whales and dolphins are part of our Canadian wildlife, and we are very lucky to have them live in our waters. In Newfoundland and Labrador, whales are a major tourist attraction. We see many visitors each year and if they are not coming to see the icebergs, they are coming to see the whales.

Canadians know how important it is to preserve our marine wildlife. That is why our government is not only supporting Bill S-203, but through Bill C-68, making amendments that also strengthen the bill.

Over the years, we have come to learn more and more about the nature of whales and dolphins and the conditions required for their livelihood. Research has told us that these animals undergo an immense amount of stress when taken into captivity, and this stress persists throughout their life. That is why Canadians and this government support the bill banning the captivity of whales and dolphins.

I want to thank the House leadership team, especially the member for Waterloo, for working so hard to get the bill through the House at this time. Again, I commend the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Senator Moore and Senator Sinclair for their leadership on the bill and this issue, which is important to so many Canadians. I support the bill and look forward to its passage.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:15 a.m.
See context


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House to speak to Bill S-203. Despite good intentions, this legislation is flawed in its current form. It should come as no surprise that there are many issues with this bill. In the short time it has been before the House for consideration, one of the major problems identified is an English-French language conflict in the text of the bill.

As we all know, Canada is a bilingual country. Our two official languages are French and English, and all legislation drafted and passed in Parliament reflects this. Anyone who has ever read these documents knows that the English text is on the left side, while the French text is on the right. We also know that Canadian laws and legislation must be applied in the same manner for all Canadians, regardless of language. This is fundamental for ensuring a fair justice system, which is key to our democracy. Otherwise, it would be grossly unfair and inhumane for a state to subject its citizens to different laws and penalties based on the language they speak. I hope in this place, and across Canada, we can all agree on that.

That is why I believe the mistake in Bill S-203 was an unfortunate oversight made by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Issues like this are more likely to happen when legislation is rushed through the process without being subject to a thorough study. As members may know, Bill S-203 was given only two meetings before it was pushed ahead without amendment.

It began on March 18, 2019. In a meeting of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the government member from Miramichi—Grand Lake identified an important and significant language conflict in the text of Bill S-203. The following is a quote from the Evidence, as the member questioned a department official on this issue:

Another thing that would need to be clarified for me is clause 4 of Bill S-203 to prohibit the importation to Canada of living cetaceans as well as cetacean tissue or embryos, subject to a special permit. Apparently the English text of the clause refers to permits issued pursuant to proposed subsection 10(1.1) of WAPPRIITA [the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act] while the French version of the text is silent on the type of importation permit required. That sounds very odd. I wouldn't know of any other piece of legislation in which the French version would be different from the English version.

The departmental official replied, “I am not completely sure about the two clauses you are referencing. I haven't done a comparison of the English to the French so I don't have a response for you on that.” In response, the member asked, “Do you think we should clarify that?” The departmental official replied, “It would be important to make sure that the intent in both the English and the French is the same.”

Interestingly, it was a member of the current government, from a bilingual province, who flagged this critical language concern. It is also interesting how the department official stressed the importance of getting the language right.

The story does not end there. It continues.

On March 26, 2019, the Honourable J.C. Major, a former Supreme Court justice, penned a letter to all members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. He, too, identified the same language conflict as the member did. However, rather than merely stating his concern, he elevated the issue to be a constitutional matter. In addition to that, he informed the committee that this part requires amendment.

This is what the Honourable J.C. Major wrote to the members of the committee in his letter:

I have reviewed the proposed Section 7.1 which is scheduled as an amendment to Bill S-203 of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection Regulation of International and lnterprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).

In addition I have reviewed the French to English and English to French review certified by...ABCO International which on review concludes that the wording of Section 7.1 between the French and English version is starkly different. The question raised is whether the difference is so material that compliance is affected. In my opinion the differences are material and confusion is inevitable and an amendment is the only remedy that will clarify the intent and purpose of Section 7.1.

Canada, by virtue of the Federal Government's legislation, confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and evidenced by the Charter of Rights, is officially bilingual. In addition, under S.18 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Part 1 of the Constitution Act 1982), both English and French are made equally authoritative.

Given that both languages are authoritative and that differences between the French and English drafting of Section 7.1 are materially different, it is apparent that revisions by way of amendment of that section would by its uniformity confirm Parliament's intention as the section would then be clear to parties affected by it and invaluable to the judiciary.

The latter consideration is important as explained below as case law is replete with decisions evidencing the difficulty the courts in all provinces have from time to time reconciling statutory conflicts and either succeeded in doing so or entering an acquittal.

Section 7.1 of Bill S-203 is an enforcement provision under the Act. Given the conflict in the English and French versions of the proposed legislation its passage without a clarification amendment would, in the event of an illegal violation and subsequent prosecution, present a dilemma to the court. An obvious example being that an application under the English version would be required to meet the conditions set out in s. 10(1.1) whereas an application adhering to the French version would not. In the result the same law would be different depending on the site of the application. Should a charge be laid under the proposed Section 7.1 the difficulty described would be left to the court then to attempt a reconciliation of the conflict in the language and if not possible to strike down the section and order an acquittal.

The foregoing is a brief response to the difficulties that are inevitable if there is no amendment clarifying the intent of the legislation.

It is of value to consider the unequivocal recommendation number 35 of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada which concluded “the English and French versions of a bilingual Act must be identical in substance”.

My observation is that the member and the former Supreme Court justice both share the same concern: There is a language conflict in the bill's text. That common ground should be encouraging. However, what happened next in the committee at clause-by-clause was anything but. My party brought forward two amendments. One would make the English text read the same as the French, and the other would make the French text read the same as the English. Both amendments were rejected by the government, and Justice Major's legal opinion was ignored.

My second observation at committee was about the four government amendments that the member for Miramichi—Grand Lake suddenly withdrew at clause-by-clause. The withdrawals came as a surprise to the opposition members, because they were sensible amendments. Their intent was largely to coordinate Bill S-203 with the Liberals' own Bill C-68, which I can understand. Both bills share overlapping objectives, and if both were to pass, their implementation could clash or create confusion. In short, it made little sense for the member to make those withdrawals, especially when the changes were responsible ones that the Conservatives were prepared to support.

Here we are then. This is the second hour of third reading of Bill S-203. This bill is flawed. A former Supreme Court justice was called in. Bill S-203 is a constitutional challenge in waiting, and the scariest thing is that this bill is about to come into force.

This is as good a time as any to remind all members of the House that it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that the bills we pass are constitutional and legally sound.

Given the government's majority position, this decision ultimately weighs on the Liberal government to do what is right. It must act in the best interests of Canadians. That action is passing legally sound and constitutional legislation.

So here we are, at the second hour of third reading debate. The bill, in its current form, is flawed. A former Supreme Court justice has weighed in on the constitutionality, and those changes needed to be made. Now is a good time to remind all members of the House that it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that all laws we pass are constitutional and legally sound.

Given these reasons, I hope the government reconsiders its position on Bill S-203.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
See context


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour to speak today in the House of Commons. With this bill and with the support of my hon. colleagues, Canada is on the cusp of making history and ending cetacean captivity and making sure it is a thing of the past. Not only is this important to me, but it is important to the people of my riding, to people right across this country from coast to coast to coast, to countless environmental stewards who have fought hard on this issue, and certainly to the Nuu-chah-nulth people and indigenous people across this country.

I have heard from many of them. Many Nuu-chah-nulth people see the orca, in their language the kakaw’in, as a spirit animal and as an animal that is a reflection of their ancestors. To think of their ancestors being held in captivity is certainly something they do not want to see happen again.

If we pass this bill, it would do a couple of things. First, it would give us credibility and legitimacy to take it even further, to push for a global ban on having cetaceans held in captivity. We know that cetaceans held in captivity suffer in a way that is not justifiable. Bill S-203 is a reasonable, balanced piece of legislation.

Let us look at the life of a captive whale, dolphin or porpoise. In captivity, conditions are spartan and prison-like. Cetaceans suffer confinement, isolation, health problems, reduced lifespans, high infant mortality rates, sensory deprivation and trauma from transfer to other parks and calf separation. Given the evidence, captive facilities cannot provide for their social or biological needs. They need to roam widely and dive deep in order to thrive. The range of captive orcas is only 1/10,000th of 1% the size of their natural home range, and 80% of their time is spent at the surface, looking for food and attention from their trainers, who make the choices for them when they are held in captivity. Captive-born animals are often forcibly weaned and shipped to other facilities, away from their mothers and the only companions they have ever known. It creates unnecessary trauma. It is cruel.

Let us compare that to wild cetaceans. They spend approximately 80% to 90% of their time under the water. They have the freedom to make their own choices, sometimes travelling up to 100 miles per day, following food and the members of their family. Many of these species, like the orcas, live in complex societies with their own cultures and dialects, maintaining close ties with family and friends. Some remain in family groups for life. For wild orcas, their pod is critical to their survival.

I want to add that I am excited that we just had a baby orca in the pod off Tofino, witnessed by my good friends Jennifer Steven and John Forde. It is another reminder of the importance of our orcas being able to roam freely in the wild and knowing that a baby orca will not be taken and put into captivity. It is a relief to all of us.

We know that keeping cetaceans is cruel, given the scientific evidence about their nature and behaviour. They are intelligent, social and acoustically sensitive marine animals.

New Democrats believe in the power of research, and we know that the continued study of cetaceans can be done ethically in the wild. There, scientists can get a realistic view of their natural behaviours without causing a lifetime of pain and suffering.

Our party also understands the need for legislation to be measured, and Bill S-203 does balance a fair transition for the two remaining facilities that hold captive cetaceans. It grandfathers in existing animals and gives the zoo and aquarium community a long phase-out period. It is not asking these facilities to close overnight. Certainly we will not be supporting the movement of cetaceans or sale of cetaceans anywhere from those facilities.

There are a few people we need to thank today. First of all, we need to thank the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who brought their voice to all elected officials, whether in the House of Commons or in the Senate, calling for this legislation to be passed; the environmental groups and animal rights organizations for mobilizing people; and indigenous communities for raising their concerns, which led to the bill and today's debate.

Also, there are people in the House whom we need to thank, for coming together and showing this is not a partisan issue; it is a moral issue. First, I want to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He had a very important piece of legislation to end zero-waste packaging, with which we hope the government will move forward. It made some announcements today in response to my motion, Motion No. 151, around phasing out single-use plastics. I would like to congratulate the government on that first step, and I look forward to seeing more momentum and movement, especially around industrial-use plastics, and rethinking how we use plastics.

I thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley because his bill was supposed to be in the House today, and he gave up his spot so we could move forward with this piece of legislation, knowing the only way we could save it was for it to be in the House today. I also want to thank Terrace's Ben Korving. He is the one who helped my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley bring the bill forward on zero-waste packaging through a contest held in his riding to ensure Canadians' voices were heard in the House. We have not lost sight of Ben's work. We have ensured the government heard the proposal that Ben brought forward. I want to thank them both.

In that same spirit, I want to thank my colleague and friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands for the considerable work she has done on this issue and the stewardship she has shown by taking on this bill, working with us to find a path forward and showing a non-partisan approach when it comes to ensuring we do the right thing for cetaceans, which do not have a voice. We are their voice and this is an opportunity to demonstrate what we are going to do to look out for them.

I want to thank my colleague and friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam, the former vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, who helped move this bill through committee and worked very hard on it. I also want to thank my friend and colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the member for Avalon, who has done some great work to help ensure the passage of this bill. I really mean that, because without his help, working with all of us in the House, we would not have got this done. I commend him for his work on that.

This bill would not have made it this far without the courageous and bold efforts of Senator Wilfred Moore. We sometimes raise concerns about the Senate, and I certainly have my doubts right now on a number of pieces of legislation, so I will take it away from the Senate and give it to a human being who is a huge champion, and that is retired senator Wilfred Moore. He has been a champion of this bill. He tabled this bill in the Senate and stayed on this bill even beyond his retirement, showing his dedication and commitment, and we owe him a round of applause. I thank him for being completely committed and devoted to seeing this through.

I thank Senator Murray Sinclair for taking on and championing this bill in the Senate, bringing the really important wealth of indigenous knowledge and his connections across this country and ensuring those voices were also heard in the Senate.

In closing, I hope this bill passes very quickly. I thank the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have been the voice of cetaceans, which do not have a voice, and look forward to Canada having legitimacy and credibility on the international stage when it comes to fighting for cetaceans and ending the captivity of whales internationally. I hope that is the next step for our country.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:35 a.m.
See context


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that I rise today to speak to Bill S-203, which on its surface seems to be popular and appeals to the emotional drives behind it. Like many Canadians, I have gone and seen cetaceans in captivity at places like SeaWorld and the Vancouver Aquarium; and at places like Marineland, where personally I have never been. I just want to put this in context.

This bill is designed to shut down one business in Canada. There is only one business in Canada actively pursuing or using cetaceans right now for the purpose of entertainment. That is what I want to talk about in this bill.

I am not against the notion that, if Canadians are by and large against having cetaceans in captivity, we can have that conversation. Of course we can have that conversation. It is the approach that this piece of legislation is taking that concerns me. It concerns me because I am a hunter and an angler. I am a guy who grew up on a farm and used animals every day at every stage and walk in my life. I am a guy who represents two areas of my constituency. One area hosts the Ponoka Stampede and one area hosts the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer.

I am also a conservationist. I have a zoology degree. I am pretty sure the guys who are laughing at me right now probably do not. I am going to ask that they just sit and think about this for one second. Many scientists appeared before the committee in the Senate and the committee in the House of Commons. They were people with not just bachelor of science degrees in zoology but with Ph.D.s. They were very concerned by the precedent that this piece of legislation would set. I asked the question in the committee whether we could end cetacean captivity in Canada in a simpler way, such as by just ending the permits of this particular business. We could do that by making a small change to the Fisheries Act and to the plant and animal transfer act.

However, this bill would change three things. It would change the Criminal Code of Canada and would do some interesting things. The bill is not about how humans handle animals or about the welfare or treatment of animals in people's care. The bill would, for the first time ever, make it a criminal act in Canada to keep an animal in captivity. That is the first time in our legislation anywhere that having an animal in captivity would be considered an illegal act. It would be illegal in the Criminal Code of Canada to breed animals, and these particular cetaceans—

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:35 a.m.
See context


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, all I am asking for is the same respect I granted the speakers from other political parties while I sat and listened to them.

The problem, as I and the people I represent see it, is with the Criminal Code amendments as well as the follow-through and execution of this piece of legislation, which creates a framework and structure whereby anybody can add onto that by simply adding a comma into the legislation and saying that horses can no longer be kept or used for breeding or for purposes of entertainment. I am not saying that is going to happen, but the structure is actually there in the legislation to do it. One has to ask the question why this would need to be done. Why do we need this sledgehammer in legislation to effect the change we are looking for?

We are known by the company we keep. If we look at the organizations that are publicly and vocally expressing support for this bill, we see they call for the end of things like rodeos, fishing, eating animals and raising animals on a farm. These organizations, like Animal Justice and some SPCAs, call for these kinds of things. This is the company that this piece of legislation is keeping.

As I said, I am actually okay with it. I understand the science behind cetaceans and that not all cetaceans do well in captivity, but we also have to be logical. We have to think with our heads too about whether this is the right way to go. I will give an example. Dr. Laura Graham, who has a Ph.D., testified at committee and said there is no actual definition of cruel anywhere in this bill. As I said, it would create new definitions. For the very first time, it would make it illegal and criminalize the breeding of animals. This is something that is a very dangerous precedent for anybody involved in animal husbandry or any of these industries.

Dr. Laura Graham says that the definition of cruel is not anywhere in this bill, and as a scientist, she finds the lack of objective assessment troubling. She has also observed that the people pushing this bill are dismissing the importance of zoos and aquariums in educating the public and eliciting a concern for conservation and saving the planet.

As a matter of fact, she highlighted a very specific case about Vaquita dolphins down in the Gulf of Mexico, of which there are about 10 left; that is all that is left. If we were to use the facilities in Vancouver, Marineland and various SeaWorld installations as something other than entertainment, but rather as a conservation tool, through captive breeding programs we could potentially some day get to the point where we could release a viable population of Vaquita dolphins back into the wild.

I will get back to Dr. Graham in a second. When I was talking to Senator Sinclair at committee, I asked him about this notion of going to a national park, for example. Where I live in Alberta, there is a park called Elk Island National Park, which is not the typical national park that people think of when they go to national parks in their neighbourhoods. Elk Island National Park is a completely fenced-in enclosure. It is a captive facility for the purpose of breeding and population enhancement. People buy a park pass and go in there for the purpose of seeing that wildlife. They may have other purposes, but make no doubt about it, they go there to see the elk and the bison. There has just been a relatively successful, depending on the standards one wants to measure it by, reintroduction of bison into Yukon. There has been reintroduction of bison into Banff National Park, which would not have happened without the captive facility and the breeding program that went with it to re-establish this population.

The whole argument behind getting rid of cetacean captivity is an emotional one. I get it. Look, I have those same convictions when I look at animals in captivity as well. As a guy who goes hunting and fishing and sees all kinds of things in the wild, I get those same heartstring tugs that everybody else gets. I am not some cold and cruel individual. I get the arguments. However, as a conservationist, I also know that we need to make use of every tool available to us in order to help reintroduce wildlife lost through bad practices or mismanagement. Not everybody in the world does things as well as Canada, and we do not do some things all that well either.

However, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves if this bill is actually going to do more harm than good in the long run. It is the same emotional tug that wants us to end the captivity of whales and dolphins that never would have created these facilities in the first place. The City of Vancouver made the choice to end cetacean captivity for the purposes of entertainment without needing this big piece of legislation to do it, yet that facility is still used for rescue and rehabilitation of cetaceans.

It could just as easily use that facility to save a population of belugas, such as the population of belugas in the St. Lawrence Seaway. We know from the experience at Marineland that belugas are actually breeding quite well there. This legislation would be for the express purpose of making that breeding impossible or illegal, actually to the point that someone could go to jail for it. What is that going to do? It is going to split up that family pod at Marineland. It is going to separate the males from the females, and it is going to create the exact same issue that others are arguing captivity is causing in the first place. It is going to create divisiveness and stress in those families.

We know that belugas in captivity are quite successful at breeding. They have a very high success rate. They have a very high birth rate and a very high survival rate. We have populations of belugas right now in the world that are in trouble. If we do not get the environmental conditions right in nature, in the wild, before those populations are actually gone for good, we would have an opportunity to save those genetics. We could actually use the revenue from letting people come and watch them to help the science and research and help that captive breeding program do more good than harm in this particular case.

That is what I am asking my friends in the House to consider. Yes, it is going to be very popular to vote in favour of this bill. We have Free Willy and Blackfish and others movies that create the desire to do what we think is right.

Dr. Laura Graham talked about Dr. Jane Goodall. She had the same feeling about keeping chimpanzees in captivity, and then she changed her mind. As the habitat was encroaching on the natural range of these chimpanzees, as she saw how zoos and other captive facilities were treating these animals and as research and knowledge expanded, she changed her mind. I am simply asking my colleagues to at least consider that before passing this flawed legislation.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

June 10th, 2019 / 11:45 a.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak today during the final hour of debate after several years of work on a bill that is important to the world's whales.

I am particularly honoured to rise this morning because we are at the point that most members in this place appear ready to see this legislation pass. The legislation was first brought forward in the last few days of the Senate sitting of 2015. It has been, to put it mildly, a long haul.

The hon. member just raised concerns, and I think all concerns by my colleagues in this place are legitimate. However, it is important for anyone watching this debate to recognize that the bill is based on science.

Many scientists testified as to why it is critical that we stop keeping cetaceans in captivity. We understand why. They are obviously not akin to livestock, for instance. Cetaceans require the ocean. They require the space. They require acoustic communication over long distances. The scientists who testified before the committee who made the case so strongly made it based on science.

Yes, Canadians care. Yes, the school children who wrote to us in the thousands were not moved by the science; they were moved because they see movies and nature films and they understand that whales, dolphins and porpoises are of a different character than other animals.

I would reassure my friend that we could not just substitute the name for another species. Bill S-203 is firmly tied to the Fisheries Act. I do not think we would find any horses in the wild in the ocean. We have tied it down legislatively in such a way that others should not worry that there will be a creeping effect.

In the time remaining, I want to say how grateful I am for the non-partisan spirit. It has been my entire honour to be the sponsor of this legislation in the House. I am enormously grateful to my colleagues.

I mentioned the scientists. Let me thank Dr. Visser, who testified at committee, coming in by Skype from New Zealand in the days right after the Christchurch killings. It was an emotional time for everyone. I would also like to thank Dr. Naomi Rose, and from Dalhousie University, Dr. Hal Whitehead. Phil Demers, a former whale trainer at Marineland, offered excellent real-life testimony as to the cruelty of keeping whales in captivity.

Certainly Senator Wilfred Moore and Senator Murray Sinclair have done an enormous amount to help. So too has the government representative in the Senate, Senator Harder.

I also want to thank the Minister of Fisheries and his predecessor for taking companion elements in Bill S-203 and embedding them in Bill C-68. Bill C-68, the reform of the Fisheries Act, remains before the Senate.

I want to take a moment to urge all colleagues in the other place to move Bill C-68 through. I also urge everyone here, if there are amendments, to move Bill C-68 through, because the Fisheries Act is critically important on many scores, as well as being companion legislation to Bill S-203.

Again, in a non-partisan spirit, I want to thank the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, who we will miss in this place, and the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. I also want to mention his constituent, Ben Korving, who put forward the legislation regarding zero-waste packaging. I pledge, as leader of the Green Party, to take on Ben Korving's motion and make sure that it does not die in this place, because those members made a sacrifice to allow Bill S-203 to pass before we rise at the end of June.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Beaches—East York, a Liberal, and my friend from Courtenay—Alberni, who was gracious in his praise earlier.

Everyone pulled together on this. The member for Charlottetown, the parliamentary secretary, helped enormously.

I would once again like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Repentigny.

I know that there were Conservative colleagues who did what they could.

I cannot tell members how important this legislation is. I will close with a few words that we have not heard in this place before. They are from the book of Job. They are found in chapter 41, verse 1.

Behold, Behemoth,
which I made as I made you;...

He is the first of the works of God;...

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?...
Will traders bargain over him?
Will they divide him up among the merchants?...

On earth there is not his like,...
He sees everything that is high;
he is king over all the sons of pride.

To everyone in this place, let us think for a moment. We behold Leviathan. He belongs in the wild. He will never again be placed in a swimming pool in this country.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, seconded by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

She said: Madam Speaker, I thank those members who are applauding this historic day. I speak for myself and for many Canadians from coast to coast to coast when I say we are very grateful for the assistance of the hon. Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the assistance of the hon. Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the assistance of their parliamentary secretaries in assisting this bill to get through this place after its long, long, long gestation in the Senate. We are extremely grateful for that support to expedite the passage of this bill so that it can receive royal assent before this House adjourns for the summer and the election.

I am only going to canvass briefly the elements of the bill; I think we are all very familiar with it.

It was started in the Senate, where it was sponsored by an absolutely terrific Canadian who would make the case that we should change mandatory retirement at age 75 for members of the Senate.

Senator Wilfred Moore of Nova Scotia brought this bill forward in 2015. On his retirement, it was taken up by another magnificent and inspiring leader within this country, former jurist Senator Murray Sinclair. All of their work and all of the witnesses in the long hearings before the Senate made the same point over and over again: In the 21st century, we simply know better than to think cetaceans belong in captivity. We can no longer pretend that the entertainment value of these magnificent, sentient creatures in swimming pools anywhere in Canada is acceptable.

Parallel to our efforts on Bill S-203 is a very good bill, Bill C-68, from the former minister of fisheries, the hon. member for Beauséjour. It is is currently before the Senate, and we certainly hope will pass soon. To him, I once again want to underline my deep thanks for all of his work as minister of fisheries.

Bill C-68, would make it illegal to take a cetacean into captivity in Canadian waters. Bill S-203, finishes that piece and makes it comprehensive by adding that we will not breed cetaceans in captivity, nor will we buy cetaceans from other countries and keep them in captivity.

We are listening to the science and taking the appropriate actions.

I want to thank other people who have played a significant role in seeing this largely non-partisan effort, supported by thousands and thousands of Canadians, come to this point.

I want to thank the hon. members for Courtenay—Alberni, New Westminster—Burnaby, Beaches—East York and Pontiac; the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard; the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard; the members for West Nova, Avalon, and Charlottetown, and the member for Repentigny from the Bloc Québécois. There was help from members on all sides of the House, including the party that did not support the bill; there are individual members of that party who were very helpful.

The NGO community has been very helpful in assisting the process by networking with good scientists and also making sure the community of Canadians concerned with cetaceans received assistance. That community includes Animal Justice and its spectacular lawyer, Camille Labchuk; the Humane Society of Canada; Humane Society International; Ontario Captive Animal Watch; Animal Alliance of Canada; World Animal Protection; and The Whale Sanctuary Project. Assistance also came from scientists Dr. Lori Marino; Dr. Ingrid Visser, who testified by video link all the way from New Zealand; Dr. Naomi Rose; Dr. Hal Whitehead, of Dalhousie University; and Phil Demers.

All of these scientists, NGOs, individual elected Canadians and those from the unelected other place worked diligently and did their homework with one aim only: to end a practice that we all know is wrong.

It is a great honour for me to have overseen this private members' bill. It is a great honour.

I am surprised by the tremendous support that this bill has received across Canada. At this time, I would like to say just one thing: thank you.

I thank everyone involved and am in their debt, as are our wonderful free whales. Although it was certainly an accident of fate and Parliament that the bill was brought forward by Senator Wilfred Moore, I will say once more “Free Willy”.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Madam Speaker, I thank the leader of the Green Party for her contribution to today's debate and for her contributions every day in the House. They are always welcome and always to the point.

I want to ask her about an important aspect she mentioned in her comments today on Bill S-203. It is the notion of the sentient nature of so many of the creatures that exist on our planet. For a long time, even when many of us were much younger, we learned about dolphins, but a bit less about whales, and that sentient nature. Perhaps the member could elaborate on how that science and evidence is developing and what the next frontier holds in further protections, beyond whales and dolphins, with respect to the animal kingdom and the species that exist on this planet.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, having had a chance to look at my list, I am mortified that I had not said the correct riding of someone who played a huge role, and that is the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. I want to ensure that is on the record.

The science increasingly tells us that it constitutes cruelty to animals to take these cetaceans and keep them in confined spaces. They communicate as families. They communicate as communities. They use language. The communication requires space and range. They are creatures that travel enormous distances. Part of the health of the animal requires being able to function in community.

We saw it in the wild this summer when one of the members of our southern resident killer whale population gave birth to a calf that died almost immediately. The mother of that whale pushed her calf through the water on her nose, keeping it above the water, although dead, for an astonishing 17-day period of mourning.

It is certainly not possible to imagine that these creatures could live in swimming pools. The science is clear.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. leader of the Green Party for her work on this file.

Being a member from Niagara, we have an unfortunate place, and I do not know how else to describe it, in the backyard of my riding, which is Marineland. It is quite troubling to see such incredible animals being confined to such horrible conditions in small tanks. I had the fortune to see these animals in the wild, travelling kilometres at a time.

Could the hon. member comment on that business model? Hopefully, this bill will push Marineland to develop a new business model where tourists and residents of Niagara can be proud of something in our background.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a difficult thing. When this bill came forward, two facilities in Canada held cetaceans in captivity. Vancouver Aquarium quite rightly made a decision voluntarily, which was very controversial within decisions made by the Vancouver city council, that it would no longer hold cetaceans in captivity. However, Marineland has taken a different approach, which is to fight the bill tooth and nail.

I hope Marineland can adjust its business model. It is a fantastic tourist attraction. It is in a perfect location. I am not a marketer, but if I were, I would suggest it talk to the people at Cirque du Soleil. I would suggest it convert that swimming pool for whales, which is a cruel living condition, to brilliant acrobats dressed as mermaids, cavorting on trapezes up and down, and attracting crowds like they have never seen before. Then we can all say with big smile on face: “Everyone loves Marineland”.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, this debate will continue, but I want to ask the hon. member if she has had an opportunity to compare what is in her bill to what is in the government's Bill C-68, which is now before the Senate. That bill covers a lot of ground, but a number of the issues are very similar, if not identical, to what is in her private member's bill. I will ask her to comment.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, to my dear friend from Niagara Falls, I would say that Bill C-68 is a terrific piece of legislation. It does ban the taking of whales from Canadian waters, but it does not speak to the pith, substance and core of this bill, which is that people cannot continue to hold them in captivity, cannot breed them for captivity and cannot keep whales in captivity.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Madam Speaker, I rise today to join this important debate on Bill S-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts with regard to ending the captivity of whales and dolphins.

Both I and my constituents in Parkdale—High Park have anticipated this piece of legislation for some time since it moved from the Senate to this House. Now that it has returned from the fisheries and oceans committee without amendment, I am pleased to stand and speak in favour of this bill. It is important to highlight the important work that was done by a unanimous fisheries and oceans committee to get it back before this House expeditiously.

Before I speak to the substantive elements of the bill, I want to add my voice to the voice of the leader of the Green Party and thank the Senate sponsors for this bill, the now retired Senator Wilfred Moore and Senator Murray Sinclair, who carried the bill forward after Senator Moore's retirement. I want to thank as well the House of Commons sponsor, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who commenced this debate today. All of these individuals have been tireless advocates for this legislation, and their activism and advocacy has helped carry Bill S-203 to this point we are at this afternoon.

The bill itself seeks to prohibit the taking of a cetacean into captivity and will amend the Criminal Code to create offences respecting cetaceans in captivity. It will also amend other acts to require a permit for the import of a cetacean into Canada and the export of one from Canada.

I want to begin by tracking our government's progress on the commitment to promote animal welfare rights in Canada and abroad. This is an important issue to me and the constituents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park, as I frequently hear from them about the work we must all do collectively to ensure the welfare of animals. Since 2015, we have made progress on this commitment.

In my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, one of the pieces of legislation I have had the privilege of working on is Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to bestiality and animal fighting. That bill will make important amendments to our Criminal Code to change the definition of bestiality and expand the animal fighting provisions to capture more of this conduct and ensure offenders are brought to justice.

This week is indeed a momentous week in this chamber, because it was only this week that Bill C-84 received third reading and was then sent to the Senate. I, along with many others, look forward to its study and its eventual passage there. In the same week that we dealt with Bill C-84 in this chamber, we are dealing today with Bill S-203. It has been an important week for animal rights in this country.

With the help of stakeholders such as farmers, industry groups, provinces and territories, and veterinarians, our government has also been active on ensuring proper and humane animal transport. Federally, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the CFIA, administers the enforcement of regulations related to animal transport, and plans are under way to modernize the regulations and humane transport provisions of the health of animals regulations. These have not been updated since the 1970s. The need to reduce animal suffering during transportation is clear.

In 2017, we also announced an investment of $1.31 million to an entity known as the Canadian Animal Health Coalition, the CAHC, to help ensure the safe transportation of livestock, develop emergency management tools for the livestock industry and improve animal care assessments.

We have also been engaged with stakeholders on the topic of animal welfare during the slaughter process. The stakeholders in my riding of Parkdale—High Park have spoken to me repeatedly about the need to ensure that animals are handled humanely at all points of their lives and that the high standards we expect regarding animal treatment are upheld. I absolutely agree with their sentiment that this kind of protection must be a priority, which is why I currently serve as a member of the Liberal animal welfare caucus.

Let us get back to the bill before us, Bill S-203.

Scientists agree that whales, dolphins and other extraordinary marine mammals like them should not be kept in captivity or bred in captivity, and that doing so amounts to cruelty.

Additionally, it is well documented that the live capture of cetaceans and their transport to a foreign habitat harms the natural habitat where the cetaceans originate. At a time when oceans are under increased threat from a number sources, such as habitat destruction, coastal pollution, overfishing and global warming, which all harm these cetaceans, we can scarcely afford to be keeping them in captivity.

We must also think about the difficult living conditions for cetaceans that live in a confined space, such as an aquarium, without the social contact and normal activities most cetaceans in the wild would enjoy. Those that live in captivity suffer from a higher rate of physical health issues and a lower life expectancy.

As well, calves generally suffer from a much higher mortality rate and a lack of emotional connection to others of their species as a result of the limited space when they are in captivity.

Therefore, where we may have seen whales, dolphins and other cetaceans in an aquarium as a form of entertainment in bygone years, in many cases we now realize that it actually amounts to animal cruelty. Thus, our government firmly agrees that the capture of cetaceans for the sole purpose of being kept for public display should be ended.

Importantly, while the banning of whale captivity is not yet in law, the practice has been in place for some years now, which is a good sign. Bill C-68, which was mentioned earlier in today's debate in one of the questions by a member opposite, was introduced by our government. It is currently in the Senate and passed in the House in June of last year. It includes amendments to end the captivity of whales unless for rehabilitation. This legislation now before us is the next step, the next important step, in ensuring the safety and security of these intelligent and complex creatures.

Presently, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Green Party, there are two aquaria in Canada that are holding cetaceans: the Vancouver Aquarium, in British Columbia, and Marineland, in Ontario. The Vancouver Aquarium, which is a not-for-profit institution, currently has a Pacific white-sided dolphin, which was rescued from the wild and deemed not releasable, as well as five belugas on loan to aquaria in the United States. The Vancouver Park Board has not permitted the aquarium to hold cetaceans captured from the wild for display purposes since 1996, but it does work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to respond to cetaceans in the wild requiring rescue and rehabilitation. Marineland holds the remaining balance of cetaceans, including one orca.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans retains the authority to issue a licence for the capture of live cetaceans. However, only one such licence has been issued over the past decade, and that was for the rescue and rehabilitation of a stranded Pseudorca calf. No licence has been issued for the purpose of displaying a cetacean publicly in over 20 years. As stated earlier, it has been the practice of successive Canadian governments that cetaceans not be captured or placed in captivity unless for rehabilitation.

It is also important to note the elements of Bill S-203 that relate to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, some of which feature whales and dolphins as a key component of their culture and traditions. These provisions were not initially part of the bill, but through the significant consultation process that took place while Bill S-203 was being studied in the Senate, the bill was sufficiently and appropriately altered.

It is essential to consider and address the needs of indigenous peoples. This is something I have heard frequently from the knowledgeable, engaged constituents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park and literally from people right around the country. They have always echoed to me that we in this place, as legislators, must apply an indigenous lens to all the legislation, government or otherwise, that comes before us. I am pleased to see that this is in fact exactly what was done in the Senate when it engaged in those consultations.

This legislation complements our government's work, which I have outlined. We are committed to the recovery and protection of marine mammals. This commitment is evident through another investment we have made, which is a $1.5-billion investment in what is an historic oceans protection plan that would help restore our marine ecosystems, in partnership with our indigenous partners.

As well, there has been a five-year $167-million investment in the whales initiative, which would take concrete steps to help endangered whales and reduce the impact of human-caused threats. Our latest announcement was $61 million for measures in support of the southern resident killer whale population off the coast of British Columbia.

Bill S-203 is one aspect of the support our government is giving to marine animals and their habitat. Bill S-203 is also supported by some significant leaders in the field of marine science and animal welfare, including Humane Canada and Animal Justice. Even the former head trainer at Marineland, Mr. Philip Demers, has expressed support for the measures in this bill.

What I think we are seeing here with Bill S-203 is the proper and necessary evolution of rights protections for animals in this country. It is a bill whose time has come. It is a bill I am very proud to support on behalf of my constituents and as a member of the government. I urge all members to do the same.