Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to this important issue today.
I want to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing Bill S-203 to the House. The bill looks at the reality of phasing out the captivity of dolphins, whales and porpoises.
The riding that I represent, North Island—Powell River, is along the ocean, and these are beings that we live with. That interaction is very important to us. I think of the times I have spent watching this wildlife engage with us in their free natural state. It is important that we are talking about this issue here today.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank my caucus colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, for his dedication to the country's oceans, rivers and streams. His commitment to protecting the wildlife that lives within them has resonated with people across Canada. He will not be sitting in the House with us much longer, so it is important to acknowledge the work he has done on files like this one.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has always had a special place in my heart because he represents the area where I grew up. I really respect his connection with the communities in that largest of ridings in British Columbia.
A couple of weeks ago, the member came to my riding to talk about his private member's bill on zero waste packaging. That issue is a huge concern in my riding. Packaging made of plastic takes so long to deteriorate and we know the impact it is having on our oceans.
Without that member's work we would not be standing here today debating Bill S-203. I understand that he is working with the minister right now to push forward his important piece of legislation around zero waste packaging. It deals with an important issue to make sure we do not fill our landfills with plastics anymore.
If it were not for the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley accepting a letter from me, the member for Courtenay—Alberni, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, our colleague from Victoria and Laurel Collins asking him to give up his spot on today's private members' hour, we would not be debating this bill today. I want to acknowledge that and thank him for continuing to work so hard on his zero waste packaging legislation. He will not give up, which is something that I appreciate deeply about the member.
Bill S-203 proposes to phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canada, except in situations like rehabilitation or rescue.
New Democrats will always support the ethical and useful research of these beings in the water, but the research can take place in the wild. Scientists in the wild environment can get a realistic view of the natural behaviours of these animals without causing a lifetime of pain and suffering, which we know is the reality when they are held in captivity.
What we have heard from scientists is that these beings suffer in confinement. They suffer a sense of isolation, serious health problems, reduced lifespans, high infant mortality rates, sensory deprivation, as well as trauma from the transfer to other parks and calf separation.
This bill speaks to an important issue where we can get it right and do the right thing. Given the evidence, captive facilities cannot provide for these beings' social or biological needs.
Keeping them in captivity is cruel. They are intelligent social animals. They are acoustically sensitive marine beings that spend their time in the vast oceans. They dive deep down to places many of us will never see.
When we look at their freedom in the wild, to swim freely, to dive deeply, when we think about their confinement, it is so much less. We have heard it is less than 1% of the range that they are used to. Can members imagine that? None of us in this place can imagine being in our environment, doing the things that we do, and suddenly being put into a small box and told that we have to be successful and perform for other people. We cannot ask these beings to do that.
It reminds me of what Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better.” This is an opportunity in this House to move forward because we now know better, so it is time for us to do better.
Unlike many issues, this really is not a partisan issue. It is a moral issue. It is a bill that is supported by science. We know that whales, porpoises and dolphins in captivity suffer in a way that cannot be justifiable. We know that this bill, Bill S-203, is a reasonable one. It is a balanced piece of legislation. It grandfathers the process and it gives zoos and aquariums time to phase out this practice. This is the right thing to do and I hope everyone in this House takes the opportunity to support this.
When we think about the grandfathering process out of captivity that Bill S-203 proposes, we know it will do important things. It will ban live captures under the Fisheries Act, except for rescues when some being out there needs help. Currently, captures are legal if they are licensed. We all need to pause and take a moment to think about what that means. We know that the last capture that happened was belugas near Churchill in 1992, so it is a practice that is not being implemented. However, the fact that it is still there is very concerning, and this bill would remove it.
Bill S-203 also bans imports and exports, except if licensed for scientific research. This is a hard one, but we want to see an open water sanctuary. We want to see the process happen in a way that is best for the whale, the dolphin or the porpoise. We want to make sure it is under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. These are important factors that this bill can bring forward.
Finally, this bill would ban breeding under the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code. This is also very important.
Right now there is a bill before the Senate, Bill C-68, that would prohibit the captures but it would not restrict imports or exports by law nor would it ban breeding. This is why we need this bill. This is why I will be supporting it. This is the action that needs to be taken to complete what is happening already.
Twenty marine mammal biologists from around the world released a letter supporting Bill S-203. They said, “At a minimum, the maintenance of odontocetes”, in other words, toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises, “in commercial captive display facilities for entertainment purposes is no longer supported or justified by the growing body of science on their biological needs.”
We know it is the right thing to do and it is time to make sure that people have the opportunity to see these beautiful animals in the wild, to respect what they need and to create a new relationship. Keeping them enclosed is not the right way to go.
When we look at the wild, we know that dolphins, whales and porpoises travel up to 100 miles daily feeding and socializing with other members of their pods. The pods can contain hundreds of individuals with complex social bonds and hierarchies. That is their natural state. In captivity they are in small enclosures and unable to swim in a straight line for any distance. They do not have the ability to dive deep. Sometimes they are housed alone or housed with other animals they are not naturally used to being with. When we look at that isolation with this concern in mind, we know this is the right thing to do.
I look forward to seeing support from all members in this House. We can do the right thing. Today is the day and I look forward to seeing a positive vote.