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)


Third reading (Senate), as of Oct. 2, 2018

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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 prohibit 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, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Endangered WhalesPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
See context


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to support Motion No. 154, introduced by my colleague, the member for New Brunswick Southwest. Her advocacy on such an important topic is certainly to be commended.

On a personal note, my family used to travel out east to Nova Scotia every summer to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins, and we would usually camp for an extended period of time in Cape Breton, and along the way to Nova Scotia. We would enjoy different adventures along the way, including whale-watching. As a kid, I was able to see beluga whales and humpback whales in the St. Lawrence at Tadoussac, and I would like to think that others will continue to have that same opportunity. I would like to think that our government will take sufficient action so that I would be able to travel with my wife and my son, Mackinlay, out east to Nova Scotia and go whale-watching as well.

I want to thank the hundreds of constituents who have written to me about the importance of protecting our whale populations here in Canada. Many constituents, for example, wrote to me requesting that our government act to protect the southern resident killer whales and to take emergency action. In their letters, they noted that there is a large risk of southern resident orca extinction in this century if conditions remain unchanged. In their words to us as representatives, and to our government, they say, “The extinction of these whales, and many other endangered species in Canada, is a tragedy that you have the power to prevent.”

Many constituents have also written to me in support of Bill S-203, which would put an end to the captivity of cetaceans, and I look forward to supporting that legislation when it comes to the House. Senator Sinclair recently spoke eloquently on this topic, saying, “Cetaceans possess intelligence, emotions, social lives that include extremely close bonds to their families, complex communication skills and roaming lifestyles.”

I would put it this way: We should treat all animals that think and feel with respect and compassion, and that means giving adequate consideration to how human activities affect animal habitats and lives.

There are a number of whales addressed in this motion, and I want to address each in turn, beginning with the North Atlantic right whale. Many of us remember the epidemic of whales dying along the coast last year. For the first time ever, the North Atlantic right whales' calving season has produced no babies, and this is after almost 20 whales died off the east coast.

Dr. Moira Brown, from the Canadian Whale Institute, has stated:

The population decline since 2011 demonstrates that right whales do not have the capacity to sustain low birth rates and high death rates for very long. If mortality rates remain the same as between 2011 and 2015, with so few breeding females alive, the species could become functionally extinct in less than 25 years.

Others have noted that there are only 100 breeding female right whales left, and 17 scientists wrote last year to our Prime Minister, noting:

What is required now is bold and swift action to reduce fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. We urge you to take seriously the warning signs of an impending extinction.

As my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest noted in her remarks:

As early as 2007, a study conducted between the Grand Manan Basin and the Roseway Basin determined that reducing vessel speed from 12 knots to 10 knots reduces the risk of a ship strike by 30%, and that in beautiful Bay of Fundy, shifting the shipping lane by four nautical miles to the east reduces the risk of a vessel collision by 90%.

The government proposed a recovery action plan in 2016, and this motion would be incredibly important to assess the actions under that plan.

With respect to the St. Lawrence estuary belugas, the very belugas I was able to see as a kid, the Department of Fisheries notes that, “before 1885, there were as many as 10,000 belugas in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf. In the 1980s, when regular monitoring began, the population was estimated to be around 1,000 individuals.” Today, that population is estimated at only 900. Commercial whaling, just as it depleted the right whales, has also depleted the beluga whales population severely. Although whaling for belugas has been banned since 1979, there has been no noticeable recovery in the population.

A number of factors are to blame for the decline of the species, such as reduced food sources, disturbance by humans, and habitat degradation, but principally ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. There is a recovery strategy under the Species at Risk Act for the beluga whale, posted and developed in 2012. Again, this motion is about assessing these plans and what further actions need to be taken.

With respect to the southern resident killer whale, this is the species about which I received so many letters from constituents. My constituents repeatedly noted they were concerned that there are only an estimated 76 southern resident orcas remaining in the Salish Sea waterways, down from 98 in 1995.

A number of organizations—Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund, among others—noted that faced with declining stocks of Chinook salmon, their primary source of food, and acoustic and physical disturbance from vessels, which interferes with their ability to hunt and communicate, the southern residents are at serious risk of malnutrition and starvation.

Our government has again taken some actions here. Most recently, in the last day, our government took action to reduce fishing of the Chinook salmon to ensure that there is adequate food supply for the southern resident killer whales. Of course, in the oceans protection plan, a $1.5 billion investment in the health of our oceans and the safety of those who use them, there was a specific reference and focus on three species of endangered whales: the right whale, the beluga, and the southern resident killer whale. Scientists are going to review how effective our current measures are and report their findings to the public, and there will be continued consultations in terms of the best way forward for protecting these species.

More specifically, under that oceans protection plan, we have seen new science funding to develop and test technologies that alert vessels to the presence of whales, lowering the risk of collisions. DFO has noted that in response to requests from a number of stakeholders for better ways to protect whales, DFO researchers will work with partners to develop and test various technologies able to detect the presence of whales in near-real time, such as underwater microphones, coupled with networks that track whale sightings. The goal is to capture near-real time information on whales in specific areas and on whale location.

The department recently hosted a meeting of Canadian and international experts to discuss various technologies, and the group will continue to do work to improve measures to protect whales. Again, there is $3.1 million for research projects, including for the University of British Columbia, to examine the effect of changes to the supply and quality of Chinook salmon, their source of food, and Ocean Wise will study the impact environmental stressors are having on whales, such as noise and limits on prey.

The minister has said that we are going to make a series of decisions that may necessarily represent some disruption for certain sectors, but will be guided by scientific advice and our solemn responsibility to ensure the protection and recovery of southern resident killer whales.

Why this motion in particular? The motion calls for the fisheries committee to study the situation of endangered whales, to identify steps that could be taken to continue efforts to protect and conserve the whale populations, to identify immediate and longer-term improvements that would limit the impact of human activities on each of these species, to call expert witnesses to find a balance among competing claims, and to present a final report by the end of 2018.

ln a letter of support for this motion, Rick Bates, CEO and executive vice-president of the Canadian Wildlife Federation said that a study undertaken by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans “will benefit all efforts to conserve our endangered whales by producing an all-party examination of the situation and how it can be improved.”

Dr. Moira Brown from the Canadian Whale Institute notes that if mortality rates remain the same as between 2011 and 2015, with so few breeding females alive, the right whale could become functionally extinct in less that 25 years if we do not take action.

Michael Broad, president of the Shipping Federation of Canada, said the organization supports the overall objectives of this proposed motion and is strongly interested in bringing forward industry's perspective on risk management actions.

Why is this important, for me in particular, and why am I standing up? It is important. Canadians in my riding and across the country have called for strong conservation measures to protect our whale populations. While the government's actions to date are important and welcome, it is also important to assess whether the government's actions are sufficient to meet our goals. That is certainly the work of the fisheries committee.

Finally, it is important to maintain pressure to produce even stronger action. My hope is that when the study is undertaken and the report is delivered by the end of the year, we can identify where there are successes and where we need to continue to move on this issue. My hope is that the report will provide clear evidence of the need for further action and that the government will heed that call.

We have an opportunity to do what is right. Rare in this House, we also have an opportunity to do what is right in a non-partisan way. I fully expect all members in this chamber to support this motion, and I fully expect the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to produce a unanimous report to address this timely and important topic.

On a final note, oceans protection is important to all of us. I know plastics are a serious issue to that end. I want to invite all members and all constituents in Beaches—East York to attend a screening provided by the Water Brothers on July 10 in my riding at the Fox Theatre at 7 p.m. I hope to see all my constituents there.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, and express gratitude to them for their generosity and patience. Meegwetch.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook for sharing his time with me, and acknowledge this shows a spirit of respect toward opposition benches from the current Liberal government. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, although I still must object to the use of time allocation and reducing time for debate in this place. However, the respect shown in shortening time but still allowing a member such as me to have at least one crack in second reading to this very important legislation is appreciated. It is particularly appreciated when I stand to speak, with shared time from a Liberal member, with the intention of attacking Liberal legislation, which I have done recently with shared time.

Today is a different occasion. Bill C-68 would repair the damage done to the Fisheries Act under former budget implementation omnibus bill, Bill C-38, in the spring of 2012, as the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook was just referencing. This bill goes a long way. Within the ambit of what the Minister of Fisheries can do, it would repair the damage done by omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, in relation to the Fisheries Act. I want to speak to that, as well as the one aspect where it would not fully repair the damage.

This is definitely a historic piece of legislation. The Fisheries Act was brought in under Sir John A. Macdonald. Canada has had a fisheries act for 150 years. That act traditionally dealt with what is constitutionally enshrined as federal jurisdiction over fish, and some people may wonder where the environment landed in the Constitution of Canada and the British North America Act. Where was the environment? The fish are federal. The water is provincial if it is fresh water, and federal if it is ocean water, so there has always been a mixed jurisdiction over the environment.

Over fish, there has been no question. Fish are federal. In the early 1980s, this act received a significant improvement, which was to recognize that fish move around and they cannot be protected without protecting their habitat. The Fisheries Act was modernized with a real degree of environmental protection. It had always been a strong piece of environmental legislation, because if we protect fish then we tend to protect everything around them.

In this case, the Fisheries Act was improved in the early eighties by a former minister of fisheries, who by accident of history, happened to be the father of the current Minister of Fisheries. It was the Right. Hon. Roméo LeBlanc. We use the term “right honourable” because he went on to be our Governor General. He amended the Fisheries Act in the 1980s to include protection of fish habitat, requiring a permit from the federal Minister of Fisheries if that habitat was either temporarily or permanently harmed or damaged. This piece of legislation is the significant pillar upon which much of Canada's environmental regulation rested.

What happened in Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012 was a travesty that remains in the annals of parliamentary history as the single worst offence against environmental legislation and protection by any government ever. It was followed up with a second omnibus budget bill in the fall of 2012, Bill C-45, which took an axe to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. In the spring, Bill C-38 repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and replaced it with a bogus act, which I will return to and discuss. Bill C-38 also repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy, and gutted the Fisheries Act.

Rather than go on about that, the hon. member who was just speaking referenced the changes made. I can tell people some of the changes that were made, and I was so pleased to see them repealed. When one opens a copy of Bill C-68, the first thing one sees is subclause 1(1), “The definitions commercial, Indigenous and recreational in subsection 2(1) of the Fisheries Act are repealed.” This is not a scientific thing. This is what Bill C-38 did to our Fisheries Act. Fish were no longer fish. They were only fish if they were commercial, indigenous, or recreational. That language came straight from a brief from industry. It did not come from civil servants within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It came from the Canadian Electricity Association. That is repealed.

This bill would bring back protections for habitat. It goes back to looking at some of the foundational pieces of how the Fisheries Act is supposed to work, and then it goes farther.

I have to say I was really surprised and pleased to find in the bill, for the first time ever, that the Fisheries Act will now prohibit the taking into captivity of whales. That was a very nice surprise. It is proposed section 23.1. I asked the minister the other day in debate if he would be prepared to expand this section with amendments, because over on the Senate side, the bill that was introduced by retired Senator Wilfred Moore and is currently sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair, and I would be the sponsor of this bill if it ever makes it to the House, Bill S-203, would not only ban the taking of whales into captivity but the keeping of whales in captivity. I am hoping when this bill gets to the fisheries committee. We might be able to expand that section and amend it so that we can move ahead with the protection of whales.

This bill is also forward-looking by introducing more biodiversity provisions and the designation of areas as ecologically sensitive, work that can continue to expand the protection of our fisheries.

I will turn to where there are gaps. Because I completely support this bill, while I do hope for a few amendments, they come down to being tweaks.

Where does this bill fail to repair the damage of Bill C-38? It is in a part that is beyond the ability of the Minister of Fisheries to fix. That is the part about why Harper aimed at the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Environmental Assessment Act.

There was not random violence in this vandalism; it was quite focused. It was focused on destroying the environmental assessment process so that we would no longer be reviewing 4,000 projects a year. Of those 4,000 projects a year that were reviewed under our former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, most of them, about 95% of them, were reviewed through screenings that were paper exercises, that did not engage hearings, and so forth. However, it did mean that, at a very preliminary level, if there was a problem with a project, a red flag could go up, and it could be booted up for further study.

There is a reason that the Fisheries Act habitat provisions were repealed. They were one of the sections listed in our former Environmental Assessment Act under what was called the “law list”, where a minister giving a permit under section 35 of our former Fisheries Act automatically triggered that the decision was subject to an environmental assessment.

Similarly, why did the former government take a hatchet to the Navigable Waters Protection Act? Like the Fisheries Act, it is an act we have had around for a long time, since 1881. It was not an act that had impeded the development of Canada or we would never have had a railroad. Since 1881, we have had the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The previous government took a real axe to it. The current Minister of Transport has gone a long way toward fixing it under one portion of Bill C-69.

This is why. Navigable waters permits also were a trigger under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Do members see where I am going here? This was synchronized action. It was not random.

The current government has pledged to fix all of the damage done by the previous government to environmental laws. Where the failure to fix things is evident is in what is called the “impact assessment act” in Bill C-69. It has abandoned the concept of a law list altogether. It has abandoned the concept of having permits and environmental assessments required whenever federal money is engaged. In other words, the Harper imprint of going from 4,000 projects reviewed a year to a couple of dozen will remain the law of the land without significant improvement to Bill C-69. In particular, the decisions the Minister of Fisheries makes should be subject to an EA, just as the decisions of the Minister of Transport should be subject.

In my last minute, I want to turn our attention to something I hope the Minister of Fisheries will take up next, because he is doing a great job. I hope he will take up looking at open-pen salmon aquaculture. It must end. It is a threat to our wild salmon fishery on the Pacific coast. It is a threat to the depleted wild Atlantic salmon stocks on the Atlantic coast, where I am originally from. There is no Atlantic salmon fishery because it has been destroyed. However, there are still Atlantic salmon, which could restore themselves if they did not have to compete with the escapement of Atlantic salmon from fish farms in Atlantic Canada, and the destruction of habitat by those farms. On the west coast, these are not even indigenous species that are escaping and threatening our wild salmon.

Let us close down open-pen fisheries, give aquaculture to the Minister of Agriculture, have fish in swimming pools on land, and let the Minister of Fisheries protect our coastal ecosystems.

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
See context


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her support of the legislation. As I have said many times, we would be open to working with her and with all members of the House with respect to specific suggestions that would improve the legislation.

I agree with the member that the inclusion of the provisions around taking of cetaceans for captivity was inspired by the work done by the Senate, by Bill S-203, and former senator Wilfred Moore from the province of Nova Scotia. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands, having studied law at Dalhousie University as did Senator Moore, would understand the importance of getting the right balance in legislation that keeps up with what we think is the widely held sentiment of Canadians.

With respect to the member's specific suggestion of those amendments, I would be happy to work with her to see how the intent of Bill S-203 and the substantive elements of that bill could be incorporated into amendments in the Fisheries Act. I look forward to having that conversation with her and with any other colleague.

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say on the record parenthetically that I find the use of time allocation, as happening almost on a daily basis these days, to be quite shocking. I know that when in opposition, the Liberal Party promised not to use time allocation. It seems things were so bad under the previous government that being less bad is good enough for the Liberals. I do not think that is good enough really. However, I cannot resist the opportunity to ask the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard a question about his quite excellent legislation.

I am glad Bill C-68 is before us. We need it desperately. However, is he open to an amendment on a particular section that I was pleased and surprised to see, which is the barring of taking cetaceans into captivity? Would the minister be open perhaps to adding language so the bill that is now stuck in the Senate, Bill S-203, could have key elements incorporated into Bill C-68, in other words not just capturing but keeping or importing?

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 24th, 2016 / 3:10 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions. They are e-petitions.

The first one deals with support for a bill that is making its way here from the Senate, Bill S-203, on banning holding whales and dolphins in captivity.