Bill S-203: The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act

From the Offices of:
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Fin Donnelly, Monique Pauzé and 
Elizabeth May


Supporting Bill S-203 – Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins


Dear colleagues,

We are writing to request that you support Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins). This Act would phase out the captivity of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) in Canada, except for rescues, rehabilitation, licensed scientific research, and captivity that is otherwise in the cetaceans’ best interests. Bill S-203 was brought forward in 2015 by Senator Wilfred Moore, now retired, and was carried forward by Senator Murray Sinclair. It received approval in the Senate in October 2018 after nearly three years of extensive review.

Keeping cetaceans unnecessarily in captivity is inherently cruel and must stop. In captivity, cetaceans suffer confinement, isolation, high infant mortality rates, health problems that lead to reduced lifespans, sensory deprivation, and trauma incurred from calf separation and transfer to other parks. Bill S-203 has been endorsed by over 20 leading marine scientists; Humane Society International/Canada; the Jane Goodall Institute; Dr. David Suzuki; Animal Justice; Phil Demers, former head trainer at Marineland; and many others.

We are behind on this issue. The United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Cyprus, Hungary, and Mexico have all already banned or severely restricted these practices. Additionally, the Vancouver Park’s board has banned cetacean captivity, the Vancouver Aquarium has publicly committed to not holding new cetaceans, the Province of Ontario has passed a law to phase out the captivity of orcas, and companies have begun ending their partnerships with companies that keep cetaceans in captivity. Air Canada, Westjet Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp., Southwest Airlines Co. and Taco Bell have all recently ended their association with SeaWorld Entertainment, which operates a total of 12 parks in the United States. Yet, captivity remains an issue in Canada with Marineland Canada holding 50-60 belugas, five dolphins and one orca.

Bill S-203 will not affect the Inuit whale hunt in northern Canada, the exchange of tissue samples for research purposes, or the ability of organizations to assist cetaceans in need. Having received extensive review in the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the bill contains clauses to protect each of these practices.

Currently, Bill S-203 grandfathers out cetacean captivity in three ways:

  1. Banning live capture under the Fisheries Act, except for rescues.
  2. Banning the import and export of cetaceans under WAPPRITTA (Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Intrerprovincial Trade Act), except if licensed for scientific research or if it is in the cetaceans’ best interest.
  3. Banning the breeding of cetaceans under the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code, subject to a summary conviction and $200,000 fine, unless provincially licensed for scientific research.

We ask all members in the House of Commons to work collaboratively and co-operatively to see Bill S-203 reach Royal Assent before the fall election of 2019. Together we can ensure that Canada becomes a world leader in protecting these extraordinary and sentient creatures from a cruel life of captivity.

Yours sincerely,


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Member of Parliament for Beaches – East York
Fin Donnelly, Member of Parliament for Port Moody – Coquitlam
Monique Pauzé, Member of Parliament for Repentigny
Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands