Madam 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.
The bill proposes changes to three acts: the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, an act whose name did not advantage of creative acronym design.
I want to begin by first stating that I am indeed, like Canadians across the country, in favour of the bill and I know this government supports this bill.
I actually deferred my opportunity to speak on my own private member's motion, Motion No. 196, and work with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in order to help advance this important legislation before the session ends. Who knows, maybe I will not get the opportunity to speak on my motion, but I know this is very important to Canadians. Seeing it so close to the finish line, it felt like it was the right move to make. I am honoured by the small role I may have been able to play in advancing the common good across party lines and between the other place and this place.
I also want to highlight the Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, who passed the bill unamended at committee.
The bill has progressed thanks to their leadership and is now even closer to being passed after years of debate in the Senate.
There is no doubt, as we have come to learn more about the living needs of whales and other cetaceans, that keeping them in captivity is simply the wrong thing to do.
Support for a ban on keeping whales in captivity has grown and is continuing to grow, not only in Canada, but around the world.
Canadians can see some of Canada's most majestic marine animals in their natural habitat all around Newfoundland and along all our coastlines from St. John's, Newfoundland, and Vancouver Island to the Arctic and Chaleur Bay.
We know from research on these animals that living in captivity is far from being in their best interest and that is why Canadians across the country have shown continued support for the banning of whales in captivity.
I would also like to add that while the banning of whale captivity is not yet in legislation, the practice has been in place for years in Canada, and our government continues to support this.
Licences for the capture of live cetaceans are issued only by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard for scientific research or rehabilitation.
In the past 10 years, as we have heard, only one licence has been issued for the rehabilitation of a live-stranded pseudo-orca calf.
Our government has also taken notice of the growing concern to ensure cetaceans are not being captured for the sole purpose of being kept for public display. That is why our government introduced Bill C-68, which is currently before the committee in the other place, and we hope will be reported out of the committee next week. It contains amendments that would prohibit the captivity of whales and would allow the minister to put in place regulations to ban the import and export of cetaceans.
Today, there are only two facilities in Canada that house cetaceans: Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia.
Marineland is a commercial facility with approximately 60 cetaceans. Most are belugas with one being a killer whale.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a not-for-profit facility and has one cetacean at its facility, a 30 year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin that was rescued from the wild and has been deemed to be unfit for release back into the wild. The Vancouver Aquarium works with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals in distress.
We know we must do more to keep protecting cetaceans. That is why we need to send a clear message through legislation that whales do not belong in captivity. Today we are debating the importance of keeping whales in the wild, but I also want to emphasize the importance of ensuring their marine habitats are protected.
Over the past few years, the government has made real investments to protect and conserve our marine environment. In 2016, the Prime Minister announced $1.5 billion dollars for the oceans protection plan, which has since funded 55 coastal restoration projects, helped to address threats to marine mammals from vessel noise and collisions, increased our on-scene environmental response capacity and much more.
As part of budget 2018, this government also announced $167.4 million for the whales initiative, which has further funded recovery plans for endangered species, such as the southern resident killer whale, the beluga whale and in my area of the world, the North Atlantic right whale.
Our government continues to take action to protect our environment. We recently announced new standards for marine protected areas to ensure that ecologically significant areas are not disturbed by oil and gas exploration. This measure was introduced in response to the recommendations of an independent expert advisory panel on marine protected areas. This announcement was well received in Canada and around the world.
Our move toward protecting important marine environments will help ensure a good future for a healthy ocean and the health of marine species such as whales and dolphins. However, I really cannot say enough about the oceans protection plan; infrastructure; coastal restoration; the abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels programs; arctic marine protection; science and research and the pilotage review.
In my riding of St. John's East, there is an institute called the Marine Institute. I had the good fortune to be there in September 2011 with the minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian coast guard at the time, now our good friend from Beauséjour who is on leave, the former minister of veterans affairs, now the Minister of Indigenous Services, and my good friend and colleague the member for Avalon to announce important work that is being done to restore marine habitat in Avalon using expertise that comes from the university in my riding, the Marine Institute.
We announced a program to re-establish the eel beds in Placentia Bay to increase that habitat. That is where lots of species, including scallops, shrimp, cod and whales, start their lives. It is important to protect these areas to improve the health and ability of our oceans to be fully functioning in certain areas where they have become damaged due to industrial activity.
This particular project is small in comparison to the overall total. It is about $7.4 million. Although it was announced on my wedding anniversary, my wife was not too upset. We had an opportunity to celebrate later. The money is actually already being spent. Last summer, scientists were able to go into Placentia Bay, do the diving and begin that restoration work in Placentia Bay that will pay dividends for years to come.
It is wonderful to work with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on this. As we did a little social media earlier, a lot of people came back to me and asked some important questions on how our government can be supporting industrial activity in the oil and gas sector and at the same time support environmental protections. They felt that it was counterintuitive or perhaps even contradictory. That could not be further from the truth.
The only way the government can move forward, protect the environment and fund the transition of our economy to a clean economy is with economic growth from our traditional sectors in resource development. We must continue to work on the demand side, and this means the purchasing decisions made by consumers and how they engage in their daily lives, and at the same time allow our natural resources sectors to engage in environmentally responsible development so that we can tap into export markets.
We cannot allow countries that do not have good environmental records to capitalize on oil and gas profits from their exports and not allow our industry to thrive. That is why our government, at the same time it is doing all this great work to help whales in the wild and help prevent whale captivity, is also funding the Trans Mountain expansion and has recently approved, with many conditions, continued exploration for two projects on the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador for oil exploration. ExxonMobil and Equinor now have the opportunity this summer and over the course of the next decade to drill exploratory drills in our waters, subject to conditions that protect the right whales and protect our oceans. We will use this prosperity to fund things like the oceans protection plan.
In closing, let me say that I am very pleased to be here today to join with Canadians from coast to coast to coast who have come out in favour of ending the captivity of whales. Whales have been kept in captivity for too long, and that has to change.
Whales do not belong in captivity; they belong in the wild. I encourage all members to support this legislation.