NPA efforts to repeal Vancouver Aquarium breeding ban still face uphill battle

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      It was less than 24 hours after the NPA took a majority of seats on the park board that its incoming commissioners announced they would eliminate a forthcoming ban on cetacean breeding at the Vancouver Aquarium.

      In a telephone interview, John Coupar told the Straight that it was only a matter of time before the four NPA candidates elected to the park board on November 15 act to repeal a motion that the outgoing Vision-dominated board passed in July.

      However, Coupar continued, despite the NPA being about to hold a four-seat majority on the seven-member board, that might not be as easy as some aquarium supporters hope.

      “The thing is, when we said that during the campaign, we were expecting a larger majority,” he said. “You need a two-thirds majority to rescind a motion. We have four [commissioners], so it means we will need to get one other to vote with us.”

      Coupar added that things are moving quickly and said that the NPA is still working out the details.

      "We’re not even sworn in yet," he noted. "So we’re going to have to look at what the options are available to us."

      Contacted separately, the two incoming park commissioners elected from the Green party told the Straight that if the NPA does try to repeal the July motion, they’ll work with sole Vision park commissioner Catherine Evans and fight to see the ban on captive breeding stand.

      “I’ll vote against it,” said Michael Wiebe. “The Green party, our whole thing before was to have a plebiscite on it. But obviously we’ve passed that.”

      Stuart Mackinnon vowed he would do the same.

      “I’m hoping that the NPA majority is going to show that they are a collaborative board and have a discussion on this issue,” added Mackinnon. “This could very well set the tone for the next four years of whether they are a collaborative group, or simply another bullying majority like we had under Vision.”

      In addition to the NPA requiring a two-thirds majority to repeal a decision passed by the previous park board, Mackinnon questioned if the NPA even has a simple majority when it comes to the specific issue of the aquarium.

      He noted that Coupar held a self-described conflict of interest that in July prompted him to absent himself from voting on the motion that asked staff to draft a bylaw banning captive cetacean breeding.

      In his interview with the Straight, Coupar maintained that conflict is no longer an issue.

      “I was involved in a company, as an agent, that sells some apparel to the aquarium,” he explained. “I never had a financial interest; I was an agent. I’m not involved there any more so I feel quite confident that I’m clear and there is no conflict.”

      Allegations of a conflict of interest have also been put to Sarah Kirby-Yung, a second NPA candidate who was elected to the park board on November 15.

      Kirby-Yung was an employee of the aquarium from 2008 to 2010, holding the position of vice-president of marketing and communications.

      Addressing questions on Twitter, she called it a “fair question” but dismissed concerns. “I am an ex-employee of Aquarium,” Kirby-Yung wrote on November 6. “Now I work for Coast Hotels. So no conflict.”

      For its part, the aquarium has remained defiant. In August, it announced that it was mounting a legal challenge against the park board, requesting that the B.C. Supreme Court conduct a judicial review of the motion passed in July.

      According to a July 23 park board report, the Vancouver Aquarium owns nine beluga whales. Two are kept in Vancouver, five are housed at Sea World facilities in the United States, and two are on loan to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Also kept in tanks in Stanley Park are two Pacific white-sided dolphins, a pair of Pacific harbour porpoises, plus a number of sea otters, seals, and sea lions.

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      11 Comments

      Forest

      Nov 17, 2014 at 7:56pm

      The most important facts in this article are found at the very bottom of the page: "… The Vancouver Aquarium owns 9 beluga whales. Two are kept in Vancouver and FIVE are housed in the controversial Sea World theme park, while another TWO are in a similar entertainment park in Georgia'. If anyone has any doubt that these whales are the commodities are a global trafficking operation, they can put these doubts to rest now.

      Good

      Nov 17, 2014 at 10:02pm

      Are the Aquarium not even open to the idea of an independent investigation of cetaceans in captivity and options for the animals' well-being? I'd like to know. $$$$$$$$$$

      Raymond Tomlin

      Nov 18, 2014 at 1:13am

      Why would the incoming / presumed new Park Board Chair, <a href="http://www.vanramblings.com/decision-2014-park-board-endorsements-ration... target="_blank">John Coupar</a>, bother to repeal the Vision Vancouver cetacean breeding ban motion passed in July, as his first order of business?

      At the very least, bad optics, a terrible way to begin his — and his NPA colleagues' — new term in office and, most of all, <em><font color=#990000>unnecessary</font></em>.

      Leave sleeping dogs alone, I say. Let it die on the order paper.

      The Vision Vancouver-dominated Park Board were famous for not moving forward on motions they'd passed, when the motion was met with public opprobrium.

      Example?

      In February 2012, Vision Park Board Commissioner Aaron Jasper moved a motion to take responsibility for park naming and renaming away from an arms-length, independent committee of Park Board - a 5-member, non-aligned community board - and give the elected Park Board Commissioners sole jurisdiction over park naming and renaming. Talk about a blow back! Wouldn't you know, the Vision park re/naming motion was never raised at the Park Board table again.

      When the incoming Park Board electeds have so many other issues of import that require their attention - e.g. this Thursday, City Manager Penny Ballem, and her Vision bosses are taking 6 community centre Boards to Court, making application to have Boards dismissed, the CCA to be placed under the direct control of the city (read: City Manager Penny Ballem) - just what in hell is John Coupar thinking in choosing to focus on the divisive issue of cetaceans in captivity?

      Not to mention which, as above, Coupar must recuse himself; hell, he won't even be in the room to discuss the reversal motion. Will newly-elected NPA PB Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung present the reversal motion, given her "perceived" conflict of interest (not to mention, her NPA colleague Erin Shum was, not so long ago, an employee of the Vancouver Aquarium)?

      All of which means, the NPA don't have the votes to reverse the cetacean breeding ban motion. Never mind that the Greens, and the Vision elected, are opposed to the reversal.

      Me, I expect smarter, more politically astute, and <em><font color=#990000>community-supporting</font></em> decision-making from the incoming Park Board chair.

      Edward Bernays

      Nov 18, 2014 at 1:59am

      Two things that cannot be ignored about the cetacean captivity motion. First, more and more people have become enlightened about the immorality of imprisoning these, and frankly all, creatures. Second, the aquarium is primarily an engine of the tourist economy and not purely a research driven charity as they so desperately try to represent themselves. If I go to a cancer research facility am I allowed to pay an entrance fee, tour around the lab looking though windows and then buy an ice-cream and a stuffed toy when I leave? Oh dear, I hope I haven't given one of those monstrous cancer/bank charities a bad idea. Voyeur for the Cure?

      OMG

      Nov 18, 2014 at 7:22am

      For people who defended the captivity of beluga's and see no moral dilemma in it: How are you enjoying those 'Killer Whale' shows? Did you make sure to visit the polar bears and monkeys on the way out in the Stanley Park zoo?

      Even though the NPA are going to show how big their balls are and undo Vision's work wherever they can, they are on shaky moral ground and, mark my words, the public's attitude is changing and sooner or later there will no more new whale imprisonments.

      Tommy Khang

      Nov 18, 2014 at 9:07am

      Well considering staff have yet to draft the actual bylaw, the NPA only has to vote down any motion for its approval which I imagine wouldn't require a 2/3 majority to fill a campaign promise.

      All this talk of recusal is also bupkis, and shows that the anti-captivity folks are pretty much digging from the bottom of the barrel. None of the NPA elects have a current business relationship with the Vancouver Aquarium as stated, attempting to manipulate optics is pathetic at best.

      RUK

      Nov 18, 2014 at 10:48am

      Gee golly gosh, here I was told that the whales are unreleaseable animals being protected by the kind-hearted aquarium. You mean it is a breeding operation for zoo animals as a money making operation?????? GOSH!!!!!

      JamieLee

      Nov 18, 2014 at 11:10am

      Tommy Khang you obviously don't know what you talk about. Park Board passed a by-law and then voted on it at the regular Park Board meeting in September. It is now in effect. And the Aquarium is challenging that by-law in court so for you to cme here and say it has no effect is pure nonsense.

      Travis Lupick

      Nov 18, 2014 at 11:20am

      On July 31, 2014, the park board passed a motion that requested that staff draft a bylaw concerning the Vancouver Aquarium and cetacean breeding on land controlled by the park board.
      See http://bit.ly/1oaYp76 .

      The latest update I have on that bylaw is from a November 14 conversation I had with park board chair Aaron Jasper. As of that date, he told me, the requested aquarium bylaw was not yet drafted and therefore is not in effect.

      anonymous

      Nov 18, 2014 at 11:56am

      @JamieLee excerpt from motion D " Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation directs staff to prepare and bring forward for enactment by the Board an amendment to the Parks Control By-law..."

      The key word being enactment, thus I believe that my original statement still holds true.

      Regardless, the real reason why the NPA/Green won the Parks Board was because of the One Card/community centre associations playing a much larger role than the whales at the aquarium. That is admitted not only by the author of this piece but supported by electoral data that shows Vision lost its greatest support in their traditional "safe" communities that contained "renegade" community associations.