, seconded by the member for Drummond, moved that Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured this evening to speak to Bill S-203 at second reading stage. This bill would put an end to the captivity of whales and dolphins.
This bill already has quite an interesting history in the other chamber. It was introduced in the Senate by Senator Wilfred Moore, from Nova Scotia, who is now retired. After the senator retired, the bill received the support of Senator Murray Sinclair.
I am very honoured to have this bill in my hands to take through the House. However, I would like us all to regard this bill as being in our collective hands. It is best that we not see this as a partisan issue or for anyone's particular credit. It is about time that we took the actions that are put forward in this legislation.
We have learned a lot about whales and dolphins over the decades. It happens that one of the pivotal stories that changed how humans have thought about whales had a link to my own riding. There is a story of a whale, an orca that was wrongly named Moby Doll, instead of Moby Dick, because when humans first took this whale into captivity, they wrongly assumed that they had a female whale. This story goes back to the effort to kill the whales to study them back in the 1950s. Killer whales are carnivores. They will eat seals but are extremely friendly toward human beings and not a threat in open water.
Saturna Island is one of the perfectly gorgeous small islands that I am honoured to represent here. I represent Saanich—Gulf Islands, Saanich being the anglicized word for WSÁNEC nation. These islands are the unceded traditional territory of indigenous peoples. The islands were scattered and in WSÁNEC traditional creation myths, the islands themselves had life and had been peopled and had been scattered. One of those scattered islands is Saturna, which to this day has the most astonishing land-based whale watching one can experience.
In any case, the scientists and other people from Vancouver aquarium came up with the idea of capturing and killing a whale. They harpooned the killer whale, held it for a period of days and realized that the whale was intelligent. The taking of Moby Doll was the beginning of scientists' realization that whales are not big fish. Rather, the whales reminded them of ourselves. The whales are sentient beings. In the Sencoten language, I was mentioning that we are all related. In Sencoten language, the phrase for human beings is the “human people” and the word for whale translates as the “whale people”. We are very connected.
That connection with whales has led science in different directions. Moby Doll did not survive. They did not know how to feed it. It was already injured. However, we learned a lot from that one contact. We learned that whales are our relatives. They are sentient beings and they are intelligent
Over the years, this has led us to greater research. What are the needs of whales? They are social creatures. We now know that the southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea are acutely endangered. However, we have also learned a lot about what their needs are in the wild. They need a lot of space. They need to be able to swim in the wild. They have social needs. They have physical needs and bio-physical needs. They need to be in the wild. In the meantime, our fascination with them is for an obvious reason. They are fascinating.
The keeping of whales in captivity has become a form of entertainment. However, the science increasingly makes us understand that what might seem to be simple entertainment and a simple pleasure is actually animal cruelty, because these animals cannot be held in a swimming pool without significant cruelty and real pain and a loss of social contact and normal activities. As the science points out, cetaceans suffer from confinement, isolation and health problems. Confinement reduces their life span, their calves have much higher mortality, and the deprivation to their senses constitutes trauma, and when they are moved from place to place, kept in captivity or bred in captivity and separated from their calves, they suffer.
We saw this in the wild this summer when one of the southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea gave birth to a dead calf or one that died immediately thereafter. That mother whale pushed that calf through the waters for 17 days while grieving. Even scientists who wanted to say they could not anthropomorphize this or assume that the whale was actually grieving realized, when this has gone on for 17 days, that the mother was grieving the loss of her calf. Imagine those kinds of sentient, emotional connections and then deciding to keep whales and dolphins in a swimming pool, thinking they would be fine.
We have taken steps in this country very recently, thanks to the former minister of fisheries, currently the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, who shepherded Bill C-68 through the House. It is now before the Senate. It quite rightly, and for the first time, banned the capture of whales in open water. However, what Bill C-68 does not do is deal with this additional large risk of keeping whales in captivity, breeding them in captivity, selling them, importing them and having a trade in whales and dolphins. That is what this bill would end. The bill would end the keeping of whales and dolphins. This step has already been taken by the United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Cyprus, Hungary and Mexico. They have either banned or severely restricted the keeping of whales in captivity.
I also want to acknowledge the leadership in this regard of the Vancouver Aquarium. That aquarium, by the way, has a phenomenal science program. I love touring it and talking to its scientists. They are doing a lot of the heavy lifting on issues like plastics in our oceans, but they kept whales in captivity for entertainment and have pledged to stop doing that. They have said they will stop voluntarily.
This bill is supported by numerous leaders and marine scientists, including the Humane Society internationally and in Canada; The Jane Goodall Institute; Animal Justice; and the former head trainer at Marineland, Phil Demers, who has appeared at press conferences with members in this place.
Whales are still being kept in captivity in Canada. We do not want to put the one institution that keeps whales in captivity out of business. There are lots of other ways to maintain a tourist attraction with the great facilities present in that institution. There are display and trained seal operations, one can imagine. I think of the Cirque du Soleil. We used to think circuses needed animals, that we needed to see an elephant lumbering through, and we now know that one of the most successful, economically profitable, off-the-charts successful circus is Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque du Soleil does not use a single animal; only humans. The circus is nevertheless quite famous and has been very successful. The same is possible in Marineland, in Ontario. They could have a kind of Cirque du Soleil that would actually be a circus of the sea.
I am not going to give professional tourist advice, but I want to make it really clear that this is not about shutting down a tourist attraction. This bill is about ending animal cruelty. We cannot pretend anymore that we do not know this is cruelty. That is very clear from scientists around the world, and I am really pleased to know that this bill has so far been supported and seconded officially by members of the other parties in this place.
This is why I hope we can make this a non-partisan effort and collectively and collaboratively end keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, phase out and end the trade in whales and dolphins and ensure that Canada joins other progressive countries from around the world in protecting our whales in the wild. That must be done. We have three species right now of critically endangered whales: the right whales in the Atlantic, the belugas in the Saguenay and, as I have mentioned, the southern resident killer whales of the Salish Sea.
Much more needs to be done to protect whales in the wild, but we cannot as a country continue the practice of holding these animals of intelligence and with complicated communication systems. Their ability to communicate songs over wide distances in the open ocean is impossible when they are kept confined essentially in swimming pools. No matter how much affection may appear between a trainer and a whale, these animals are being kept in ways that harm them, that kill them and that deny them their ability to be what they are: magnificent creatures, leviathans. One of the great texts of the Bible to describe a non-human species is the description of leviathan, one of God's great creations. Masters of the oceans, they cannot any longer be kept in captivity.
To all my colleagues in all parties in the House, I say that it is time to put an end to this cruel practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. This must stop immediately.
Now is the moment that we begin the second reading process of this bill. Please, I urge my colleagues, let us get it expeditiously to committee. Let us get it expeditiously back for report stage and third reading. Let us ensure that when we go back to our electorate in each one of our ridings across the country, we are able to say that we did one thing this year that we are really proud of. Let us say we ended the practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, that we did something our children want us to do, that we did something for the wild beings of this planet.
In honour of Senator Wilfred Moore, I would like to end my remarks by saying that it is time we free Willy.