Canadian Anti-Captivity Bill Introduced Again

December 15, 2015 Laura Bridgeman

A bill to end dolphin and whale captivity throughout Canada was reintroduced last week in the Senate. The bill first made its appearance last summer, back when the dubious Harper government held sway of Parliament. Now, as Senator Moore’s aide told me recently, they hope to have a more sympathetic ear with new Prime Minister Trudeau.

I remember speaking with Senator Moore on an early morning last spring. He told me about his involvement with the famous Bluenose sailing ship, and I recounted nostalgic memories about visiting his home province, Nova Scotia.

As our conversation moved onto the matter at hand – crafting a bill that would ultimately phase out dolphin and whale captivity – we spoke about the documentary Blackfish, the aquariums that Canada currently hosts, and the approach that Sonar takes to advocacy.

While most people may not realize this, dolphins and whales are not yet legally entitled to their own lives. This is what underlies the legality of their captivity in Canada, as well as other countries around the world.

Sonar joins the growing chorus of voices in arguing that cetaceans in fact already have moral, intrinsic rights to their own lives. Through our outright dismissal of this concept, we trample upon those existing rights. What we must do is pass legislation that legally recognizes and respects their already existing rights.

Senator Moore’s bill is an important step in the right direction. While it may not explicitly state a recognition of existent rights of the lone orca or the belugas being held against their will within the squalor otherwise known as Marineland, it reflects this growing understanding and respect of a cetacean’s inherent right to be free of captivity. It’s an acknowledgement of these individuals’ rights, and the rights of wild cetaceans, to be the authors of their own lives, without human intrusion. Should it pass, the bill will effectively place cetaceans beyond the use of the entertainment industry.

Dolphins and whales are entitled to these rights. While they are certainly not the only other species entitled to recognition of their rights, what makes them trailblazers is the ever-growing and very compelling body of scientific and anecdotal evidence pointing towards their significant cognitive and emotional capacities.

Senator Moore and I discussed all of this on that morning in the spring. I could hear clearly through his voice that above all the legalities and politics, he cares deeply about the wellbeing of cetaceans. This is one person who respects their rights to live freely, and we are lucky to have him in office.

Regardless of the outcome of the bill, the conversations that it initiates are of utmost importance. It is a harbinger of the gradual dismantling of human exceptionalism as we come to realize that we are not the only beings who matter, and not the only beings who recognize when our rights are impinged upon.

If you agree that it is time for us to recognize and respect cetacean’s rights to their own lives, please sign and share this petition.

Photo credit H Yip.