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)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 29, 2018

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, 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.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to first congratulate the member on a speech that provided a perfect dismount near the end: free Willy, indeed. That is Senator Moore she is referring to, I am assuming. He was a fine colleague and incredible person. I miss him.

I remember watching a documentary some time ago, and very few people in North America probably did not see it. It was aired on CNN. It is called Blackfish and is about the situation in the south with the orcas or the killer whales. It is so illustrative of just how difficult this is. There is so much involved here. The member aptly described it as a big fish in a small bowl, essentially. The behaviour of some of these mammals is incredible. It was very enlightening for me and, obviously, for millions of people right in North America.

One aspect of that was the markets. I think about wholesale retail, if I can use that as an analogy. We know the places around North America where people take their kids to watch these mammals perform. Where are the most egregious markets by which they get these mammals? The practices, I am assuming, have been cruel in many cases; that has been documented. How would this bill affect that? I do not want to single out any countries here, but nevertheless, there is quite a market in this and it seems to be a viciously cruel way of taking these very young animals.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador also has spectacular whales in its offshore, the humpbacks and minkes. We are a country with three oceans, so we have a wide variety of whale species here.

The member is quite right. The taking of whales from the ocean and putting them into captivity is cruel. The trade does involve countries like China. We have heard rumours about the belugas currently held at Marineland, and there are over 22 belugas there. There is speculation and concern it may be getting ready to sell them and trade them to China.

The international trade in whales is a profitable one and whales die in the process.

Again, the hon. member raised the documentary movie Blackfish. I think that was Senator Moore's inspiration for bringing forward Bill S-203. He was so deeply disturbed by the story of Tilikum, the captive orca, that he wanted to ensure Canada was not part of this trade. It is simple legislation as far as it goes. It is clear, it would do the right thing and it would do them for the right reasons.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and I both represent regions of the Salish Sea, both very much informed by our constituents. They talk about the need to protect whales, to take our responsibility as citizens, now that we know the impacts on these highly social species. It is important for them to be able to dive deeply, to be able to communicate with each other. We know the social and feeding needs of the species. It is increasingly abhorrent to have them in captivity.

When my two nieces, Rachel and Breanna, were very young, the cool thing to do was have a birthday party at the aquarium. Now they and their friends say, “no way”, that this would be the worst birthday party they could ever go to. They are much more interested in going to aquariums, the kind of Ripley's Believe It or Not. As a result, the stocks of Sea World and so on have dropped as the appetite has left.

I am curious about my fellow parliamentarian's sense of the public support she has had for the eventual phase-out of keeping whales in captivity.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I share a lot of causes that relate to protecting the Salish Sea.

The level of public support for protecting whales is just off the charts. I get a lot of letters from school groups and thousand of letters in support this.

It was an effort to get the bill through the Senate. It was lost for a long time at committee in the Senate. Thousands of Canadians worked with Senator Moore and then Senator Sinclair to get the bill through the Senate. It was a struggle that took years. We must meet the expectations of Canadians from coast to coast to coast and ensure the bill passes expeditiously in this place.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to 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, or as we have heard, the Free Willy bill. It was introduced in the other place by the hon. Senator Wilfred Moore on December 8, 2015, and following his retirement was carried by Senator Sinclair.

The bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. Because I only have 10 minutes, I will refer to that statute from here forward as WAPPRIITA.

The goal of these amendments is to end the captivity of cetaceans; that is, whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canada. Indeed, the stated objective of Bill S-203 is to gradually reduce and eventually do away with the practice of holding whales, dolphins and other cetaceans captive in Canadian facilities.

Bill S-203 proposes amendments to the Criminal Code that would make it an offence to hold cetaceans in captivity. It proposes an amendment to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit the capture of a cetacean in order to take it into captivity. Finally, Bill S-203 proposes to amend the WAPPRIITA to prohibit the import of cetaceans into Canada and the export of a cetacean from Canada.

Bill S-203 is a response to growing public concern about the well-being of cetaceans. We now have a greater understanding and awareness of the nature of these animals and the living conditions they need to be happy and healthy. There is clearly growing support for the protection of whales and other marine mammals in Canada and around the world.

Since its introduction, Bill S-203 has undergone significant changes. Our colleagues in the other place, particularly through the consultations and study done by the standing committee, have sent us a bill that deserves our full consideration.

Bill S-203 also now includes provisions that affirm the rights of indigenous peoples, many of whom feature whales as a central part of their culture and traditions.

In order to enable certain critical conservation and research activities to continue, Bill S-203 includes provisions that would create exceptions where an animal is in need of rescue or rehabilitation. Cetaceans currently in captivity at Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium would also fall under the exception clauses; that is, these facilities would not be closed down, leaving animals that have never known another home with no place to be cared for.

We are surrounded on three incredibly wide-ranging coasts by spectacular oceans. These waters are home to 42 distinct populations of whales.

All of these animal species and many more are facing major threats. Global warming has affected water temperatures, and that is affecting the food supply. Illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, accidental by-catch and entanglement in commercial fishing nets, declining food availability, noise pollution, habitat pollution and even collisions all pose a threat to cetaceans.

The conservation and protection of marine mammals in the wild, including cetaceans, has become a whole-of-government priority in Canada. This priority has been underscored by the increasing threats facing three endangered species of whales, the southern resident killer whales on the west coast, the North Atlantic right whales on the east coast, and the St. Lawrence estuary beluga in Quebec.

The government's commitment to recovering and protecting Canada's whale species is reflected in the support provided through the $1.5 billion oceans protection plan announced by the Prime Minister in 2016, the $167.4 million whales initiative announced as part of budget 2018, and the recent announcement of $61.5 million for measures in support of the southern resident killer whale.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been coordinating with other federal departments and provincial and territorial governments to advance other initiatives, including reducing vessel strikes and entanglement of the North Atlantic right whale, reducing contaminants affecting the St. Lawrence estuary beluga, and introducing amendments to the marine mammal regulations that establish minimum general approach distances for whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canadian fisheries waters.

Bill S-203's focus is on the capture of wild cetaceans for the purpose of keeping them in captivity as an attraction, and the ongoing holding and/or breeding of cetaceans in captivity. As I have said, there are only two facilities in Canada that hold cetaceans in captivity, Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia.

Marineland is a commercial facility that has approximately 60 cetaceans, including beluga whales, dolphins and one orca or killer whale. The vast majority of cetaceans held at Marineland are belugas.

The Vancouver Aquarium is a not-for-profit facility. It has only one cetacean at its facility, a 30-year old Pacific white-sided dolphin that was rescued from the wild and deemed non-releasable. Earlier this year, the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it would no longer display cetaceans and would focus instead on its work on conservation and rescuing stranded and injured whales and dolphins. The Vancouver Aquarium works with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals in distress.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard only issues licences for the capture of a live cetacean when the purpose is for scientific research or rehabilitation. In the past 10 years, only one such licence has been issued for the rehabilitation of a live stranded Pseudorca calf. It has been a matter of public policy for more than two decades that wild cetaceans not be captured and placed in captivity unless the goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release them.

Provincial and territorial legislative regimes in this area continue to evolve. In 2015, Ontario banned the buying, selling or breeding of orca whales. The province also amended the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to increase protection for other marine mammals held in captivity.

This bill was debated in the other place, so we have debated the amendments to the Fisheries Act that the government introduced in the spring and summer.

My colleagues may have noticed that some of the amendments put forward in Bill C-68 would achieve the main goal set out in Bill S-203: ending the captivity of cetaceans. Bill C-68 would do that without impeding the government's ability to do important scientific research.

Bill C-68 also includes provisions that protect the rights of northern indigenous peoples to export cetacean products, such as narwhal tusks.

Bill C-68 would prohibit capturing a cetacean with the intent to take it into captivity. Exceptions are made for the minister to authorize an exception if a cetacean is injured, in distress or in need of care.

The bill also proposes a regulation-making authority with respect to importing fish, including cetaceans. This regulation-making authority would allow the government to determine the circumstances under which a cetacean could be imported to or exported from Canada. For example, these movements may be permitted for purposes of repopulation or conservation. They may be prohibited if the intent is to display cetaceans in aquariums. These regulatory tools could also enable the government to authorize the import and export of cetaceans to sea sanctuaries should those facilities be established in the future.

The former minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has acknowledged that the amendments to the Fisheries Act proposed in Bill C-68 as they pertain to keeping cetaceans in captivity were inspired by Bill S-203, and in particular the bill's sponsor, retired Senator Wilfred Moore.

There is no doubt that this government and Canadians from coast to coast to coast support the ban on the captivity of cetaceans for the sole purpose of display. That is why I look forward to supporting this bill to committee and participating in the debate that will occur there and hearing from witness testimony.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill S-203.

I am opposed to this bill. The bill is fundamentally flawed. I was interested to hear the previous two speakers conflate this particular bill with environmental conservation and the conservation of whales. This has nothing to do with conservation or the environment.

Any population ecologist worth their salt only considers the numbers of individuals who are in the population. With this particular bill, even though the previous speakers tried to conflate it with environmental protection, the only thing that counts are the numbers of cetaceans that are out there, the population size.

This bill will do nothing for the conservation of cetaceans or, indeed, the understanding of the natural world. This particular bill, in my view, is an emotional reaction to a problem that simply does not exist.

In terms of cetaceans, I know that the government is always pointing out the problem populations, and quite rightly so, the southern killer whale, the Atlantic right whale, the belugas in the St. Lawrence. I am pleased to say that in Manitoba, off the Churchill estuary, we have a population of beluga whales of 55,000 individual animals. Studies have shown that population is stable and/or increasing.

Obviously, interacting with cetaceans in the wild is desirable, but many Canadians simply do not have the opportunity to do so. I was interested in the parliamentary secretary's comments about the Arctic and narwhals. I think I am one of the few people in this House, apart from the member for Nunavut, who has actually seen narwhals and experienced their beauty in the wild. It is something that very few people will see. They are remarkable creatures.

Many Canadians, however, do not have the opportunities that people like myself or those in the science community have had. Viewing cetaceans in captivity may be the only opportunity for many to understand cetaceans. Again, if the only place a person from an urban area who does not have a chance to get out in the wild and view cetaceans can learn about cetaceans is in captivity, obviously there are communication tools that various facilities will use to inform the visitors about cetaceans, cetacean conservation and the issue of the endangered species, for example. These are very important communications tools.

Regarding Ontario, I have been advised that there was a lengthy public debate in Ontario, which included the creation of an independent and international scientific advisory panel. They produced a very comprehensive report. There was the creation of a technical advisory group, composed of stakeholders from across the country. There were public hearings. I have been advised that provincial legislation has been passed that expressly permits keeping marine mammals in humane care, and creates and implements stringent regulations regarding the care and treatment of marine mammals.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about the issues of animal cruelty and so on, and it reminds me of the debate we had on Bill C-246. The slippery slope is alive and well when it comes to this type of legislation. Who knows where it will lead, to rodeos or medical research? Who knows where this will lead once a bill like this is passed?

In terms of Marineland, again the founder of Marineland, John Holer, who is sadly now deceased, spoke to the Senate committee on May 16, 2017. Some of the takeaways from his testimony were that Marineland employs over 100 people year round and 700 during the operation season; Marineland has employed over 50,000 people in its 56 years of successful operation; Marineland does not seek or rely upon any public funding; Marineland annually commits approximately $4 million a year to advertising, reaching more than 15 million people across Canada and the U.S.; and Marineland attracts close to a million visitors yearly to the Niagara region.

Obviously, the entire regional economy benefits from this tourism opportunity. Also of tremendous importance, thousands of special needs children, at least 3,500 per year, visit Marineland through special programs, including events like Autism Day.

What is important is looking at the population of cetaceans. I go back to the point that this particular bill has nothing to do with environmental conservation. Nobody should be led to believe that it does.

However, the humane holding of cetaceans in captivity, following veterinary-approved codes of practice, is a conservation tool that can be used to educate Canadians about cetaceans.

I recall, for example, the great debates that we had on Bill C-246, the animal rights bill, a private member's bill that a Liberal member of Parliament tabled. Thankfully, a number of people in the government caucus voted against that bill, despite the protestations of the member who introduced the bill that it would not affect any of the animal-use communities.

The animal rights movement is clever in how it pushes forward legislation or policy change. The process is to start with something that seems innocent and then keep going and going, and pretty soon who knows what will be banned? For example, once we ban cetaceans from captivity, what is next? Let us look at beluga whales for example.

There are 55,000 beluga whales in the Churchill River estuary during the summer months. They are hunted by Inuit people from Arviat further north. Taking a few and putting them in captivity would mean nothing to the population of beluga.

Right now, however, polar bears are allowed to be held in captivity. Winnipeg has a world-famous, multimillion dollar polar bear exhibit. The number of polar bears is less than half that of beluga whales. What is next? This can go on and on.

Some people have a real antipathy towards zoos in general or animals in captivity, but this is how these campaigns start and this is the reason I will be actively opposing this legislation.

In terms of cetaceans, and as someone who has been to the Churchill River estuary and seen beluga whales, I have also been fortunate enough to see narwhals, which are incredible creatures. I can certainly understand the attachment people have to these beautiful creatures. Again, we admire them because we are taught about the beauty of nature and wildlife in facilities that are responsible and effective. However, without these facilities, many Canadians would never see such creatures.

The parliamentary secretary talked about the conservation of cetaceans. I want to tell him and the government caucus about the devastating effect that the new marine mammal regulations will have on the community of Churchill.

As I said, in the estuary in the summertime beluga whales are there in the thousands. As soon as a boat is launched, they swim up to it and there is nothing that can be done about it. These ridiculous marine mammal regulations that the government is insisting on enforcing would potentially kill this $10 million industry.

I made a statement about Churchill earlier in the House today. Ecotourism is a $10 million a year industry, employing 300 people. But the community of Churchill is on the ropes economically, and the whale and polar bear watching industries are the lifeblood of that particular community.

In the new marine mammal regulations, there is a minimum distance requirement of 50 metres. In the Churchill River estuary, which is not a very large area, there could be 30,000 beluga whales. How can they be avoided? Interestingly enough, the marine mammal regulations do not apply to large vessels that may be plowing up and down the estuary. They can plow through belugas willy-nilly, pardon the pun.

In terms of the ecotourism industry in the Churchill area, the very gentle environmental “use” this industry makes of the Churchill River estuary is the ultimate in sustainability, yet the government is promulgating marine mammal regulations that could potentially put that industry out of business.

I heard about the situation with humpback whales in Conception Bay. The operators there offer people the opportunity to slip into the water and swim with the whales. That would be completely banned under the new regulations. I have been told that the operator in Conception Bay lost $60,000 in business.

None of these regulations will have any positive impact on cetacean populations whatsoever. I guarantee there has been no scientific proof that these marine mammal regulations will improve the situation of cetaceans in Canada. All they will do, as the Liberal government has done over and over again, is to hurt remote rural communities. I find that unacceptable.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill S-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins).

The bill was first introduced in the Senate in 2015. It has taken three long years to get it here, and I fully support its quick passage into law. The purpose of the bill is to phase out the captivity of cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canada. There is an exception for rescues, rehabilitation, licensed scientific research, or if it is in the best interest of the cetacean.

Keeping these incredible creatures confined is cruel. This is a moral issue, but it is informed by science, and I hope all members of the House will support this legislation. The study of cetaceans is important, but New Democrats believe research on cetaceans can be conducted in an ethical manner in the wild where they belong. There, scientists can get a realistic view of their natural behaviours without causing a lifetime of pain and suffering.

Science has proven that they suffer in captivity. Let us have a look at what the Animal Welfare Institute reports about their natural behaviour compared to when they are in captivity.

In the wild, cetaceans can travel up to 100 miles a day, feeding and socializing with other members of their pods. Pods can contain hundreds of individuals with complex social bonds and hierarchies. In captivity, they are housed in small enclosures, unable to swim in a straight line for long or dive deeply. Sometimes they are housed alone without opportunities for socialization, or they are forced to live with incompatible animals and even species with which they would not naturally have close contact.

In the wild, cetaceans spend approximately 80% to 90% of their time under water. They have the freedom to make their own choices. In captivity, they spend approximately 80% of their time at the surface, looking for food and attention from their trainers, who make the choices for them.

In the wild, they are surrounded by other sea life and are an integral part of marine ecosystems. They have evolved for millions of years in the oceans, and in most cases, they are the top predators. In captivity, cetaceans are in artificial environments that are sterile or lack stimulation. Tank water must be treated or filtered, or both, to avoid health problems for the animals, although they may still suffer from bacterial and fungal infections that can be deadly. Other species, such as fish, invertebrates and sea vegetation cannot survive these treatments, so display tanks are as empty as hotel swimming pools.

In the wild, cetaceans live in a world of natural sound. They rely on their hearing as we do on our sight. Echolocation is their main sensory system, and they use sound to find mates, migrate, communicate, forage, nurse, care for young, and escape predators. In captivity, cetaceans must listen to filtration systems, pumps, music, fireworks and people clapping and yelling daily. Their concrete and glass enclosures also reflect sounds, so a poorly designed enclosure can make artificial noises worse. Echolocation is rarely used, as a tank offers no novelties or challenges to explore.

In captivity, it must be horrific for these animals. Cetaceans are intelligent, emotional and social mammals. Orcas, in particular, are highly social animals that travel in groups or pods that consist of five to 30 whales, although some pods may combine to form a group of 100 or more.

Canadians witnessed their extraordinary human-like behaviour this past summer, as we watched the grieving ordeal of the mother orca, J-35 Tahlequah, who carried her dead newborn calf for about 1,600 kilometres over 17 days. She empathetically held on, diving deep to retrieve her calf each time it slid from her head. Jenny Atkinson, director of the Whale Museum on San Juan Island told the CBC:

We do know her family is sharing the responsibility of caring for this calf, that she's not always the one carrying it, that they seem to take turns. While we don't have photos of the other whales carrying it, because we've seen her so many times without the calf, we know that somebody else has it.

This type of grieving behaviour is not unique to killer whales. Dolphins and other mammals, including gorillas, are known to carry their deceased young in what is widely believed by scientists to be an expression of grief.

Sheila Thornton, the lead killer whale biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada describes it. She said:

Strong social bonds between the families of orcas drive much of their behaviour. The southern residents share food, a language, a culture of eating only fish and an ecological knowledge of where to find it in their home range.

Bill S-203 is an important piece of proposed legislation that would grandfather out captivity in three ways.

First, it would ban live captures under the Fisheries Act, except for rescues. To be clear, the bill would not interfere with rescues. In fact, it would allow for research if the cetacean is unfit to return to the wild.

Second, it would ban cetacean imports and exports, except if licensed for scientific research or in the cetacean's best interest. An example of that exemption would be a transfer to an open water sanctuary under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, or WAPPRIITA.

Third, it would ban breeding under the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code, subject to a summary conviction and a $200,000 fine unless provincially licensed for scientific research.

It is important to note that government Bill C-68, which is currently in the Senate, prohibits cetacean captures except for rescues and authorizes the regulation of imports. However, Bill C-68 would not restrict imports or exports by law or ban breeding.

Bill S-203 would also ban cetacean performances for entertainment. Currently, two Canadian facilities hold captive cetaceans. The Vancouver Aquarium holds one dolphin and has publicly committed to not hold any new cetaceans following the Vancouver Park Board ban. Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, holds 50 to 60 belugas, five dolphins and one orca. Since 2015, it has been illegal to buy, sell or breed orcas in that province.

For these facilities, a change brought on as a result of Bill S-203 would be felt gradually. Marineland, for example, could keep its current whales and dolphins, many of which should live for decades, and in that time it could evolve to a more sustainable model, perhaps with a focus on conservation. The Vancouver Aquarium, for instance, could retain its current residents for research and may even acquire new whales and dolphins through rescue and rehabilitation.

Phil Demers, a former head trainer at Marineland, said this about the bill:

As a former Marine Mammal Trainer, I believe the bill to ban cetacean captivity and breeding in Canada is imperative and long-overdue. I have witnessed the physiological and emotional consequences captivity imposes on these magnificent beings, and those who care for them. No living being should be forced to endure what I’ve witnessed, and it’s my hope that this bill will finally put an end to these cruel practices.

It is about time. Canada is behind other jurisdictions on this issue. The United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Cyprus, Hungary and Mexico all have banned or severely restricted these practices. Companies have begun ending their partnerships with other companies that keep cetaceans in captivity. Air Canada, WestJet, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Taco Bell have all recently ended their association with SeaWorld Entertainment, which operates a total of 12 parks in the United States.

In a letter to the Vancouver Parks Board, Dr. Jane Goodall said:

The scientific community is also responding to the captivity of these highly social and intelligent species as we now know more than ever, about the complex environments such species require to thrive and achieve good welfare. Those of us who have had the fortunate opportunity to study wild animals in their natural settings where family, community structure and communication form a foundation for these animals’ existence, know the implications of captivity on such species.

In 1977, I received the honour of a lifetime when the Squamish nation bestowed me with the name Iyim Yewyews, meaning orca, blackfish or killer whale, a strong swimmer in the animal world. They gave me this name for the work I was doing to conserve, protect and restore the watersheds, our marine environment and the natural world, which includes these whales.

I encourage all members to get on the right side of history and pass this important bill.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in support this bill to end the captivity of whales and dolphins. What is important to me in seeing this bill go forward is that we are making steps about animal welfare. There is so much more to do, but we are seeing steps going forward.

I was pleased to speak in favour of the bill that would end sexual abuse of animals and animal fighting. I am looking forward to bills that are coming from the other place in respect to testing on animals for cosmetics, as well as shark finning.

Today, I am very pleased to stand in support of this bill, which builds on work that was done by the government bill, Bill C-68, which also aims to end captivity or at least capture cetaceans. This Senate bill goes further and it is a very important step.

One of my favourite holiday memories is from my vacation to Newfoundland. I went for my friend's wedding. We went to the Bonavista Peninsula.

We were at the Bonavista Social Club. As my family and I sat on the porch, we watched whales out in the bay. It was the most beautiful thing. What was beautiful about it was not just the whales; it was the fact that they were in their natural element. It was part of what added to the beauty. If people want to learn about animals and about cetaceans, the best way is to do that is to see them in nature, enjoying themselves and being together. That was truly one of my favourite holiday memories.

When I compare that memory to what I hear about the conditions of cetaceans being kept in captivity, it breaks my heart. It also breaks my heart when I hear members from across the way talking so disparagingly about taking this step forward to support our cetaceans and to ensure they do not suffer.

Keeping cetaceans in captivity is a fairly new development. It started in the 1960s. I understand the first orca on display was in 1964. Therefore, this has not happened forever. However, 54 years after that first orca was put on display, it is finally time to put an end to this practice. It is time for us to say “no more”.

I would like to take a moment to thank the leadership of the former Senator Wilfred Moore, who brought the bill forward in the other place, and Senator Murray Sinclair, who then took over the sponsorship of the bill and moved it forward. I also look very much forward to working with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to ensure we get the bill through this place, so we can move it forward.

What would the bill do?

It proposes to ban holding cetaceans in captivity. It also bans the breeding of cetaceans. That is also part of the problem. It is not just taking them out from the wild, but it is also about breeding them for the purposes of captivity. It bans the capture of cetaceans from the wild and it bans the import and export of cetaceans.

For anyone who is not used to the the term cetacean, it is defined as whales, dolphins and porpoises.

It is important that the bill have some teeth. Therefore it proposed a fine of up to $200,000 for people who contravene it.

As I mentioned, the bill goes further than Bill C-68, but I am very happy our government took that first step. Right now, Bill C-68 is being considered in the other place. However, this bill takes important additional steps. I ask all members in this place to give it serious thought and see how we can go further.

I want there to be no mistake. We must end keeping whale and dolphins in captivity. It is heartbreaking to hear some of the examples, such as confining whales to small spaces. A wild orca may travel 150 kilometres in a day. I was reading an article that described orcas in captivity as couch potatoes. It is not healthy. Apparently the largest orca tank in the world is less than one ten thousandths of 1% of the size of the smallest home range for wild orcas. That is unbelievable. Imagine how that would feel.

To picture that, an orca would have to swim the circumference of the main pool in SeaWorld more than 1,400 times to get that kind of distance. It is dizzying. I could not imagine having to go through that. Senator Sinclair perhaps said it best when he was speaking to senators in the other place about this bill. He said, “So think about this, senators: How would you feel if you had to live the rest of your life in a bathtub?”

I put that same question to the members here. How would they feel spending the rest of their lives in a bathtub?

Another part that really struck me was when I heard about the effect of sound in these tanks for cetaceans. They use sound to be able to get around. Echolocation is the right term. It is the main sensory system. Sound reverberates within these tanks, and they have more sounds from filtration systems, clapping, yelling and music. We can imagine being confined to a small space and having that kind of sensory overload. It is horrible, and it actually has an impact on whales and dolphins.

We see whales harming themselves in captivity. They do not in the wild, but we can understand that being held in a tank like that, having heard a bit of what I have described, would be so frustrating for them. They have hurting teeth. Their teeth are damaged from biting on the bars. They rub against the sides of the tank and damage themselves. That is not normal behaviour. It is the behaviour of whales and dolphins that are deeply frustrated and are being harmed by their circumstances.

Another part we have heard a bit about and I would like to emphasize is that whales, for example orcas, are very social. They are part of a family. In fact, I read somewhere that male orcas never leave their moms. They go away for a short bit, mate and come back. They stay as a family, and it is very important for them to stay together. If we take whales out of that family pod, we are breaking a very important tie for them. Not only are they confined to this bathtub, not only do they have these sounds disturbing them, they are pulled away from their social networks. That is a very important part of their health and mental health. We can add to that the fact that they do not necessarily get along with whales from other families, so there can be aggression between them, and we have seen that type of aggression in certain situations.

There are also shortened lifespan. When we have whales in captivity, they do not live as long as they do in the wild. From what I understand, of 200 orcas that have been held in captivity, none have reached what we would describe as old age, which would be about 60 years for a male and 80 years for a female. None of them have lived that long, because of the conditions they are kept in.

I want to mention sanctuaries for whales, because ultimately, we are going to have to find a place for those who cannot be released into the wild after they have been held in captivity. When we are doing this, we need to make sure that we do not have sanctuaries that also treat the whales as entertainment. We need to be sure that the sanctuaries provide them with a healthy atmosphere.

Mr. Speaker, you have been very kind to give me this time. I would like to thank the animal advocates who have stood up and carried this ball. We are going to keep carrying that ball and bring it over the line.

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActRoutine Proceedings

October 29th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

seconded by the hon. member for Repentigny, moved that S-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins), be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to this important bill, which was passed by the Senate.

Bill S-203 would ban the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity. It comes to us from the Senate. I wish to once again publicly thank Senator Wilfred Moore, now retired, of Nova Scotia, for bringing this bill forward in December 2015 and Senator Murray Sinclair, who carried the bill forward from there. It has now received approval in the Senate.

I would ask all members in this place to work collaboratively and co-operatively to see the bill reach royal assent before the fall election of 2019. It would do what many scientists have told us must be done, which is to protect these extraordinarily evolved sentient creatures from captivity that amounts to animal cruelty.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)