PETA celebrates court ruling upholding Vancouver park board's legal authority to phase out cetacean captivity

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      A recent court ruling involving the Vancouver Aquarium is being noticed south of the border.

      On February 19, a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel overturned a lower-court decision and concluded that the Vancouver park board has legal power to ban keeping whales and dophins in captivity.

      The court's findings have been welcomed by the U.S.-based executive vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a.k.a. PETA.

      "Just over two years after the premature deaths of the last two beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium, the British Columbia Court of Appeal has moved the city one step closer to a day when no cetacean endures the misery of being confined to a tiny tank," Tracy Reiman said in a statement. "PETA looks forward to seeing all of Canada follow suit, as Parliament is considering a bill that would prohibit dolphin and whale captivity across the country."

      Bill S-203 (Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act) would amend the Criminal Code to create offences in connection with keeping cetaceans in captivity.

      A critic of the legislation, Cariboo–Prince George Conservative MP Todd Doherty, argued earlier this month in Parliament that if it passed, it would "shut down the important research work done by professionals at the Vancouver Aquarium".

      "I have no doubt that those in favour of this bill have the best intentions at heart," Doherty said, "but if they truly cared about the survival of the species, if they wanted to ensure their survival and not just pander to the demands of animal activists, they would look closely at this bill and come to the realization that science is important and we need to continue the life-saving research that groups like the Vancouver Aquarium and scientists provide."

      The leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May, is a supporter of Bill S-203. She said that the goal of the legislation, which originated in the Senate, is not to harm any particular business.

      "There is abundant scientific evidence, evidence from veterinarians, from those who study marine mammals in the wild and marine mammals in captivity," May said in Parliament. "We know that for cetaceans, captivity is torture and it is time we put an end to it."

      In February 2018, the aquarium challenged the park board's anti-captivity bylaw on four grounds in B.C. Supreme Court.

      The judge in that case agreed with one of those grounds—that a licensing agreement between the park board and the aquarium prevented the board from applying the bylaw. As a result, no ruling was issued regarding the other challenges.

      Now that the B.C. Court of Appeal panel has overturned that decision, the case has been remitted back to B.C. Supreme Court to rule on the aquarium's three other grounds for appealing the bylaw's legality.