Murray Sinclair

Murray Sinclair
ISG - Manitoba

Senator Murray Sinclair’s Bill S-203 was granted Royal Assent on Friday, June 21, 2019. The following is an excerpt from his speech about the bill at Third Reading in the Senate on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Honourable senators, I rise to speak as the replacement sponsor of Bill S-203, Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. This bill proposes to phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises, except for rescue and rehabilitation, licensed scientific research or for their best interests. Bill S-203 would also require a licence for performance and entertainment purposes.

The bill implements the phase-out through the changes to the Fisheries Act regarding capture; the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act regarding import and export; and the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code regarding breeding.

I’d like to begin my remarks by acknowledging our friend and retired colleague Senator Wilfred Moore, the original sponsor of this bill. I actually feel a tinge of sadness today in the fact that he could not be in this chamber with us as we reach what I can only hope is the beginning of the conclusion on something that has been so close to his heart and about which he felt very strongly. He isn’t in the gallery, but I’m sure he’s listening as we debate this bill.

The story of how his dedication to this cause arose is an interesting one. As I’m sure you’ve heard, if you’ve ever talked to him, one evening he and his family watched Blackfish, a documentary that highlights the dangers to humans and cetaceans of the forcible capture and captivity of such intelligent aquatic animals. Afterward, Senator Moore’s son Nicholas asked his dad if he could do something about such treatment of whales here in Canada. This compelled Senator Moore to introduce this bill on December 8, 2015, that would phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans, with those specific exceptions.

Honourable senators, I know that we all believe it is morally wrong to treat animals with cruelty. We do not distinguish between those individuals who are intentionally cruel or those who are cruel through negligence or ignorance. It is enough if their treatment of animals is cruel on a reasonable standard.

Our moral sense of right and wrong has led to such conduct being criminalized in our Criminal Code. Bill S-203 makes it clear that we have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of cetaceans for profit and entertainment. This bill would have Canada join other countries that have already banned cetacean captivity.

This bill also follows other positive developments in Canadian animal welfare and within the work of this Senate. This year, we have seen a bill calling for an end to the removal and importation of shark fins from live sharks. We have before us another bill calling for an end to animal testing in the cosmetics industry and to require cruelty-free cosmetics. How fitting it is, then, to have before us this bill, calling for an end to the cruelty inherent in cetacean captivity for profit and entertainment purposes.

We need to remember what this bill is really about: whether whales, dolphins and porpoises should be kept in captivity. When thinking about this, the bottom line is let’s not forget the creatures living in the concrete tanks, and let’s not forget the wild cetaceans who may yet face violent capture from their family groups for the purpose of display for human entertainment. That’s what this bill is about and why it matters so much.

Given the scientific knowledge presented by experts about the biological characteristics and needs of cetaceans during the study of this bill, it is evident that it is cruel to keep cetaceans in captivity. We, I believe, do not want to be cruel. We should not allow others to be either.

In my community, the Anishinaabe recognize that we are all related, not just you and I, but you and I and all life forms of creation. As living things, we are connected to each other. We depend upon one another. Everything we do has an effect on other life forms and on our world. That is why we use the term “nii-konasiitook,” all of my relations, when addressing each other.

So bear in mind why we are here. We are here to take care of our nation, to take care of our land, to take care of the people and to take care of all that is part of this Creation. So n’gwamazin: Be strong and steadfast in your beliefs. Nii-konasiitook: Take care of all of our relations.

Thank you for your attention. I ask you to support this bill. Meegwetch.

Note to readers: The Honourable Murray Sinclair retired from the Senate of Canada in January 2021. Learn more about his work in Parliament.

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