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.