The BC SPCA is praising the passing of Bill S-203 after a final debate about the new legislation in Ottawa today. Nicknamed the ‘Free Willy’ bill, S-203 bans keeping whales and dolphins (cetaceans) in captivity in Canada.
“Bill S-203 not only bans the capture and confinement of whales and dolphins, it also criminalizes the breeding of captive cetaceans—a North American first,” says Dr. Sara Dubois, the BC SPCA’s chief scientific officer.
The bill amends Canada’s Criminal Code to make keeping cetaceans in captivity an offence. It also amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit capturing a cetacean along with the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to require a permit to import or export a cetacean. “We’ve known for some time now that cetaceans are a highly intelligent, social, deep-diving species whose needs simple cannot be met in a tank,” says Dr. Dubois. “Scientific evidence shows that confining whales and dolphins causes them physical and mental pain and suffering.”
The bill allows rescue organizations to help cetaceans that are injured or in distress then release them when they are healthy. It also grandfathers cetaceans that are already in captivity and would not survive in the wild.
Bill S-203 has been more than four years in the making having undergone more study than any other bill in recent history. It was originally introduced by retired Senator Wilfred Moore alongside Green Party Leader – MP Elizabeth May and Humane Canada in 2015.
More than 3,600 BC SPCA supporters emailed their Members of Parliament to ask for their support in the final vote. Bill S-203 is expected to receive Royal Assent and will become law.