Twelve Ontario lawyers have released an opinion today stating that Ontario municipalities including the City of Toronto has the authority to ban the sale of shark fins and that the ban would be supported by the Courts if challenged.
The opinion, which can be read in full HERE, states that:
“Ontario municipalities have clear authority to ban the sale, possession and consumption of shark fins through their powers to legislate with respect to (a) animals, including their welfare; (b) public health and safety; and (c) consumer protection.”
“The courts accord a high degree of deference to municipalities and are unlikely to strike down validly enacted by-laws.”
The opinion definitively addresses uncertainties raised by some members of city staff as to whether or not Ontario municipalities have the jurisdiction to implement a ban on shark fins.
Brantford, Ontario became the first Canadian city to ban shark fins when its city council voted unanimously to do so in May 2011. In June 2011 Toronto city Councillors Glenn de Baeremaker, Kristyn Wong-Tam and John Parker put forward a motion to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins in Toronto. The motion was referred to the Licensing and Standards Committee and will be debated on Thursday October 13, 2011 starting at 9:30AM.
Oakville became the third city in Ontario to propose such a ban on July 5, 2011, followed by Mississauga, which directed its staff to report on the viability of a ban on July 6, 2011 and Pickering, which did the same on September 19, 2011.
Fuelled by the demand for shark fin soup and considered a delicacy in some cultures, shark finning is a widespread practice that occurs when a shark is captured, its fins are sliced off, and the shark is discarded back into the ocean.
Shark finning causes immense pain and suffering, as the sharks are nearly always still alive when their fins are removed. After being tossed back into the ocean without their fins, the live sharks usually suffocate to death. Sharks breathe by having water flow through their gills while swimming, but without fins they are unable to swim and are therefore unable to absorb adequate oxygen. The result is a slow, painful death.
Worldwide, shark finning is a cause of rapidly plummeting shark populations, with some shark species reportedly having been reduced by 80% or more in the past 50 years. The practice is also incredibly wasteful, as only the fins of the shark are used. The rest of the body, worth far less than the fins, is simply thrown away.
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