Second Reading of Bill S-241, Jane Goodall Act

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I acknowledge that I rise to speak today from the unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe peoples.

I would like to thank Senator Klyne for bringing forward Bill S-241, and I would like to acknowledge the original author of this legislation, our former Senate colleague Murray Sinclair, for his work on this issue.

Honourable senators, as societal norms and attitudes change and evolve, it is incumbent on us as parliamentarians to ensure that our laws evolve in step to reflect this change.

Over the last 10 to 20 years here in Canada, we have seen a sizable shift in Canadians’ attitudes toward animal protections and treatment, from the food we eat to the products we purchase to the entertainment we enjoy. Canadians are paying attention more than ever to the things we enjoy in life and where they come from. This naturally extends to concerns for how we treat the animals with whom we share the planet. Canadians are demanding better, more ethical treatment of animals while at the same time demanding more transparency and accountability from the people, organizations and businesses profiting from our animals and wildlife.

Bill S-241 will take some of the biggest steps to date toward ensuring protections for captive wild animals in Canada.

Based on our continued and evolving scientific understanding of nature and the animals who call our planet home, along with Indigenous understandings of nature, this bill will create new legal protections for captive wildlife in Canada. Big cats, bears, wolves, seals, sea lions, walruses, certain monkeys and dangerous reptiles such as crocodiles and giant pythons will see new protections come into force.

The bill also contains measures for protecting the public from privately owned exotic and potentially dangerous wild animals. I was particularly alarmed to learn that anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 big cats can be found in private ownership. Regulations vary from province to province. Some provinces like British Columbia have strict regulations where private ownership of big cats is banned outright, while others, like Ontario, have no provincial licensing requirements for ownership, breeding or trade in big cats.

The Jane Goodall act will also phase out captivity of elephants in Canada. As noted by others, elephants are compassionate and social animals. They suffer needlessly when kept in small enclosures or in isolation. Also, Canada does not have the climate to provide the proper environment for these animals, and it has been shown to be detrimental to their well-being to keep these grand creatures indoors for months at a time.

Honourable senators, Bill S-241 has the potential to establish the strongest legal protections for captive wild animals anywhere in the world. If we examine what is being accomplished as a direct result of the passing of measures contained in our former Senate colleague Wilfred Moore’s Bill S-203, which ended future captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada, Bill S-241 has the potential to do great work here in Canada, and it can also lead to change worldwide.

After an extensive search, the Whale Sanctuary Project chose a bay in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, to establish the world’s first whale sanctuary. This will be the first permanent seaside sanctuary in the world for beluga whales and orcas. The sanctuary will provide an actual environment for once-captive animals who are incapable of being released into the ocean for their own safety. The bay will provide the whales with about 110 acres of space to roam and explore waters up to 18 metres in depth. The Whale Sanctuary Project’s mission is:

. . . to transform the way people relate to whales and dolphins by bringing an end to their exploitation and by creating seaside sanctuaries, assisting with international marine mammal rescues, and advancing whale and dolphin science.

. . . with your help, we are creating a gold-standard coastal sanctuary in Port Hilford Bay, Nova Scotia, where cetaceans (whales and dolphins) can live in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat. It is being designed to serve as a model for many more that can then be built all over the world in the coming years.

The sanctuary is gearing up to welcome their first inhabitants in 2023, and they have made it publicly known that their hope is to relocate Kiska the killer whale from Marineland as their first inhabitant.

Colleagues, we have a bill before us that is supported not only by groups representing some of Canada’s largest zoos, leading animal welfare organizations and the Jane Goodall Institute but also by a majority of Canadians. On September 8, in a statement directed to us as parliamentarians, the Jane Goodall act coalition said:

Protecting wildlife is not a partisan issue. It’s a national and international issue — one that should concern everyone. The Jane Goodall Act is Canada’s chance to lead and make a difference for our fellow creatures at this pivotal time for the natural world.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has also been charged by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to specifically introduce legislation to protect animals in captivity. The Honourable Steven Guilbeault has tweeted his interest in Bill S-241 and our work in the Senate on the legislation.

Honourable senators, the principle of this bill is sound, and it should be referred to committee for study. The Jane Goodall act has the potential to establish the world’s strongest legal protections for captive wild animals. I would like to again acknowledge and thank my colleague Senator Klyne for continuing the work initiated by our former colleague Senator Sinclair.

Canada has the opportunity with this bill to be a world leader and set more gold standards when it comes to protecting wildlife and conserving nature in Canada. As legislation is not overwhelming Senate committees at this time, I think this would be the ideal time to send Bill S-241 to committee for further study. Thank you.

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