VANCOUVER – National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is responding to the decision from the B.C. Supreme Court quashing, in part, a municipal bylaw aimed at preventing whales and dolphins from suffering in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The Aquarium sought to overturn the Park Board bylaw passed in May, 2017 that bans confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Vancouver parks, including the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The Aquarium argued that it had a constitutional right to confine whales and dolphins. Animal Justice and Zoocheck focused on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal claim that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The groups argued that confining whales is harmful and violent conduct not deserving of protection.
The Court decided that the anti-captivity bylaw did not apply to the Aquarium because of a licensing agreement signed between the Park Board and the Aquarium in 1999, which runs until 2029. In other words, the case hinged on an issue of contractual interpretation. The Court declined to consider the issue of free expression as it was not necessary to decide the case.
On January 18, 2018 the Aquarium announced that it would stop confining whales and dolphins after public pressure.
“The Aquarium made the disturbing claim that it has a constitutional right to keep sensitive, intelligent marine mammals in tiny tanks, a practice Canadians no longer find acceptable. The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim could have permanently undermined animal protection laws right across Canada. We are pleased that the Court did not grant this right, and that other governments remain free to pass laws protecting animals.
“Ultimately, the Vancouver Aquarium was already forced last month to end its whale and dolphin captivity program due to public outrage over this cruel and outdated practice. A little over one year ago, there were five whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Today, only one remains alive. We are pleased that no further vulnerable cetaceans will languish in captive misery at the Aquarium.
“The curtain is closing on whale and dolphin captivity in Canada. Senate Bill S-203, which would ban captivity and captive breeding nation-wide, is moving forward through Parliament, and just this week, the federal government introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-68. The bill includes a ban on capturing cetaceans for confinement and empowers the government to restrict imports of cetaceans into the country. It is clear that whale and dolphin captivity is an archaic, dying practice that will soon be outlawed.”
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. Animal Justice and Zoocheck were represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.
The B.C. Supreme Court decision in Ocean Wise Conservation Association v. Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation 2018 BCSC 196 is available here.
For more information, contact:
Counsel to Animal Justice
Join the Animal Justice mailing list