Keeping large aquatic mammals in captivity for entertainment is slowly becoming a thing of the past in Canada after the House of Commons passed Bill S-203, also known as ‘Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act,’ last month.
The bill is meant to stop the practice of keeping whales and dolphins and other mammals captive for entertainment.
Global News spoke with Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International, Canada. Aldworth is highly supportive of Bill S-203 and says “in captivity, whales and dolphins are forced to swim endless laps around barren concrete tanks. It’s just tremendously disturbing how these animals are denied their most basic needs how they live in captivity without the ability to express natural behaviours.
“We worked for a number of years to champion public will to have this practice stopped in this country,” Aldworth said. “This is a very cruel and very outdated form of entertainment.”
According to the House of Commons, it will be considered a criminal offence for anyone who promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course that involves captive large mammals for performance and entertainment purposes.
Global News spoke with Daniel Walker, LLP, and partner at Bobila Walker Law about how Bill S-203 will affect Canadian individuals and facilities in the future.
“I would assess that any display performance or exhibition could be walking dangerously close to violating the law that has now been enshrined in the criminal code,” Walker said.
But there are still some issues. The new legislation allows for ‘grandfathering,’ which means facilities that currently own any of these mammals are allowed to keep them but they can’t be used for entertainment.
“Having them put in aquariums or in any kind of facility where you’re going to continue to charge money is possibly in violation of the law,” said Walker.
According to the House of Commons, breaking the ban can lead to fines of up to $200,000.
Global News reached out to the Vancouver Aquarium for a response and in a statement, they said the following:
There are also exceptions to this law as it does not apply to facilities and individuals using large aquatic mammals for research, rescue, or for rehabilitation efforts. But anyone planning on using this option will need to apply for a permit.
“I think the big things to look for is how the law is interpreted moving forward,” Aldworth said. “To me, the law is very clear. The exemptions are very clear and have been put in place for very valid reasons.”
The Humane Society International, along with many animal activists groups, are celebrating the passage of Bill S-203 and hope other countries will follow in Canada’s footsteps.