Animal Protection Groups Ask to Intervene in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit

VANCOUVER – Animal Justice and Zoocheck are seeking leave at the British Columbia Supreme Court to intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The Aquarium is suing in an attempt to overturn the bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park.

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. The two organizations filed a joint intervention application this week.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are deeply troubled by the Aquarium’s legal arguments, in particular the claim that its practice of confining cetaceans in captivity is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals in captivity is found to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression, there could be drastic consequences for animals. It would become difficult, if not impossible, to pass laws protecting animals from being confined as those laws would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

If granted leave to intervene, Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that the capture, captivity, and confinement of cetaceans should not be considered ‘expression’. The organizations rely on well-established case law stating that expression that is violent or is connected with violence is not protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. Capturing and confining whales and dolphins are forms of violence, in that they involve the coercion and involuntary captivity of living beings who have complex thought, the ability to suffer, and the capacity for self-determination. Confining cetaceans has been shown to cause significant physical and psychological harm to them.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this troubling lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice.  “We hope to have an opportunity to explain this to the court.”

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaugh Wils & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The Animal Justice and Zoocheck application to intervene can be downloaded here.

The Aquarium’s petition can be downloaded here.

The Parks Board’s response to the petition can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
[email protected]

Julie Woodyer
Campaigns Director
[email protected]