Lawmakers in Ottawa voted to end the captivity of whales and dolphins this week, and MP Rachel Blaney says New Democrats from the west coast made it happen.
The so-called Free Willy Bill phases out the capture, breeding, import and export of whales and dolphins, with some limited exceptions.
The bill doesn’t apply to whale rehabilitation and rescue, and it grandfathers in animals that are already in captivity. Blaney described cetacean captivity as cruel during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday.
“What we have heard from scientists is that these beings suffer in confinement,” Blaney said. “They suffer a sense of isolation, serious health problems, reduced lifespans, high infant mortality rates, sensory deprivation, as well as trauma from the transfer to other parks and calf separation.”
Blaney said the exemptions for whales and dolphins already in captivity will allow aquariums or zoos to phase out the practice.
Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., and the Vancouver Aquarium are the only two places in Canada that currently keep captive cetaceans.
The bill was first introduced in the Senate in 2015 and eventually made its way into the House of Commons, where it had its third and final reading on Monday.
Blaney said in a media release that she helped make sure the bill didn’t die on the order paper.
A group of four New Democratic MPs from Vancouver Island, along with an NDP nominee from Victoria, asked fellow MP Nathan Cullen to give up an hour of debate for a separate bill, according to the media release.
This ensured the whale-related bill passed before the end of the parliamentary session later this month, the release said.
The bill “would have died on the order paper were it not for the intervention by the west coast NDP MPs,” according to the release.
-With files from the Canadian Press