Parliament Passes Historic Ban on Whale & Dolphin Captivity 

OTTAWA – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding Parliament for passing Bill S-203, historic legislation that bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. The House of Commons voted in favour of the bill at third reading today.

“This is a watershed moment for whales and dolphins, and powerful recognition that our country no longer accepts imprisoning smart, sensitive animals in tiny tanks for entertainment,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “This also marks the first time Parliament has ever passed serious animal protection legislation. Canada has long been criticized for having some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world, but today we can be proud to become a world leader in protecting whales and dolphins from the misery and suffering they endure in the aquarium industry. The tide is finally turning for animals in Canada.”

Only two facilities still confine whales and dolphins—the Vancouver Aquarium, which houses one dolphin, and Marineland, which has over 50 beluga whales, five dolphins, and one orca. Those whales and dolphins will be grandfathered in under the new law, but the aquariums must stop breeding them. The import and export of whales and dolphins is also severely restricted, and can only be done in the best interests of the animal or for science. Forcing whales and dolphins to perform for entertainment is also outlawed.

At every step of the way, Bill S-203 faced delay and obstruction, and it survived multiple attempts by the aquarium industry to have it killed.

Canada joins other countries and jurisdictions that have outlawed or restricted whale and dolphin captivity, including California, South Carolina, Barcelona, Mexico City, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, India, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

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Fast Facts:

  • Bill S-203 was introduced by former Senator Wilfred Moore in December 2015, then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair. After much procedural delay, it then passed in the Senate and was championed by MP Elizabeth May in the House of Commons.
  • A coalition of over 20 leading marine scientists and stakeholder organizations have supported Bill S-203. Bill S-203 was promoted by Animal Justice, Humane Canada—the federation of SPCAs and Humane Societies, Humane Society International/Canada, marine scientists Dr. Lori Marino and Dr. Naomi Rose of the Whale Sanctuary Project, Ontario Captive Animal Watch, Phil Demers—former head trainer at Marineland, World Animal Protection, Dr. David Suzuki, the Jane Goodall Institute, and more.
  • We thank the key Parliamentarians who championed and sponsored this legislation: MP Elizabeth May, Senator Wilfred Moore, Senator Murray Sinclair, MP Fin Donnelly, MP Gord Johns, Senator Peter Harder, Senator Dan Christmas, MP Nathan Cullen, MP Sean Casey,  MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP Mario Beaulieu, MP Monique Pauzé, MP Nick Whalen, MP Will Amos, Senator Elizabeth Hubley, Senator Janis Johnson, Senator Mary Jane McCallum, and many more. We also thank the numerous parliamentary staffers whose efforts contributed to this victory, including Steve Parkinson, Martin McKendry, and Archie Campbell.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]