Letter to Andrew Scheer RE: Obstruction of S-203 in the Senate

March 15, 2018

Dear Mr. Scheer,

I am writing to ask you to end the Conservative senators’ obstruction of Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. Their procedural delay of this legislation disappoints the tens of thousands of Canadians who wish to see a vote on this bill, and reflects poorly on the National Conservative Caucus.

Bill S-203 proposes to phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively, cetaceans) in Canada, with the exception of rescues and open water sanctuaries. Since its introduction as a Private Member’s Bill in December, 2015, Conservative senators have attempted to delay and obstruct its consideration during every stage of the legislative process.

Following first reading, S-203 spent nearly a year at second reading, and only then got its vote and referral to committee due to the failure of a (draconian) hoist amendment moved by Conservative Senator Scott Tannas.

Once at committee, S-203 received 17 hearings over a period of nine months. By comparison, Bill C-14, the Government’s medically-assisted dying bill, and C-51, Harper government’s controversial anti-terrorism bill, received seven Senate hearings apiece. Yet, despite the amount of time and effort that went into these hearings, Conservative Senator Plett still drove efforts, behind closed doors, to frustrate the process and stop the committee from voting on the bill (a move that led to the Senate’s server being swamped by thousands of emails from outraged supporters).

Once S-203 eventually passed a clause-by-clause vote in committee nonetheless, the Conservative Chair of the committee, Senator Manning, then took over a month to move the report – a significant departure from ordinary Senate practice. Compounding this issue, Senator Plett then immediately moved for adjournment of the debate.

Most recently, when Senator Jim Munson sought to finally adopt and debate the bill at Report Stage, Senator Plett threatened a two-day procedural filibuster, stating, “Absolutely not. Not a chance. We will be here all day tomorrow, now.”

Conservative senators continue to hold-up S-203, neither participating in debate, nor allowing a vote on the report. These stall tactics are part of a disturbing pattern of anti-democratic obstruction by Conservative senators, with similar actions being taken on Bill C-16, Bill C-210, and Bill C-45. On S-203, many supporters are additionally troubled by the potentially illegal lobbying of Conservative senators, including Senator Plett and Senator Yonah Martin, your Deputy Leader in the Senate, that have been reported. Canadians expect more of their parliamentarians.

As the prospective House of Commons sponsor of Bill S-203, and on behalf of thousands of outraged Canadians, I ask that you allow third reading debate to proceed and a free vote to take place on S-203 in the Senate.


Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada