Mr. Blaine Calkins
Mr. Speaker, all I am asking for is the same respect I granted the speakers from other political parties while I sat and listened to them.
The problem, as I and the people I represent see it, is with the Criminal Code amendments as well as the follow-through and execution of this piece of legislation, which creates a framework and structure whereby anybody can add onto that by simply adding a comma into the legislation and saying that horses can no longer be kept or used for breeding or for purposes of entertainment. I am not saying that is going to happen, but the structure is actually there in the legislation to do it. One has to ask the question why this would need to be done. Why do we need this sledgehammer in legislation to effect the change we are looking for?
We are known by the company we keep. If we look at the organizations that are publicly and vocally expressing support for this bill, we see they call for the end of things like rodeos, fishing, eating animals and raising animals on a farm. These organizations, like Animal Justice and some SPCAs, call for these kinds of things. This is the company that this piece of legislation is keeping.
As I said, I am actually okay with it. I understand the science behind cetaceans and that not all cetaceans do well in captivity, but we also have to be logical. We have to think with our heads too about whether this is the right way to go. I will give an example. Dr. Laura Graham, who has a Ph.D., testified at committee and said there is no actual definition of cruel anywhere in this bill. As I said, it would create new definitions. For the very first time, it would make it illegal and criminalize the breeding of animals. This is something that is a very dangerous precedent for anybody involved in animal husbandry or any of these industries.
Dr. Laura Graham says that the definition of cruel is not anywhere in this bill, and as a scientist, she finds the lack of objective assessment troubling. She has also observed that the people pushing this bill are dismissing the importance of zoos and aquariums in educating the public and eliciting a concern for conservation and saving the planet.
As a matter of fact, she highlighted a very specific case about Vaquita dolphins down in the Gulf of Mexico, of which there are about 10 left; that is all that is left. If we were to use the facilities in Vancouver, Marineland and various SeaWorld installations as something other than entertainment, but rather as a conservation tool, through captive breeding programs we could potentially some day get to the point where we could release a viable population of Vaquita dolphins back into the wild.
I will get back to Dr. Graham in a second. When I was talking to Senator Sinclair at committee, I asked him about this notion of going to a national park, for example. Where I live in Alberta, there is a park called Elk Island National Park, which is not the typical national park that people think of when they go to national parks in their neighbourhoods. Elk Island National Park is a completely fenced-in enclosure. It is a captive facility for the purpose of breeding and population enhancement. People buy a park pass and go in there for the purpose of seeing that wildlife. They may have other purposes, but make no doubt about it, they go there to see the elk and the bison. There has just been a relatively successful, depending on the standards one wants to measure it by, reintroduction of bison into Yukon. There has been reintroduction of bison into Banff National Park, which would not have happened without the captive facility and the breeding program that went with it to re-establish this population.
The whole argument behind getting rid of cetacean captivity is an emotional one. I get it. Look, I have those same convictions when I look at animals in captivity as well. As a guy who goes hunting and fishing and sees all kinds of things in the wild, I get those same heartstring tugs that everybody else gets. I am not some cold and cruel individual. I get the arguments. However, as a conservationist, I also know that we need to make use of every tool available to us in order to help reintroduce wildlife lost through bad practices or mismanagement. Not everybody in the world does things as well as Canada, and we do not do some things all that well either.
However, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves if this bill is actually going to do more harm than good in the long run. It is the same emotional tug that wants us to end the captivity of whales and dolphins that never would have created these facilities in the first place. The City of Vancouver made the choice to end cetacean captivity for the purposes of entertainment without needing this big piece of legislation to do it, yet that facility is still used for rescue and rehabilitation of cetaceans.
It could just as easily use that facility to save a population of belugas, such as the population of belugas in the St. Lawrence Seaway. We know from the experience at Marineland that belugas are actually breeding quite well there. This legislation would be for the express purpose of making that breeding impossible or illegal, actually to the point that someone could go to jail for it. What is that going to do? It is going to split up that family pod at Marineland. It is going to separate the males from the females, and it is going to create the exact same issue that others are arguing captivity is causing in the first place. It is going to create divisiveness and stress in those families.
We know that belugas in captivity are quite successful at breeding. They have a very high success rate. They have a very high birth rate and a very high survival rate. We have populations of belugas right now in the world that are in trouble. If we do not get the environmental conditions right in nature, in the wild, before those populations are actually gone for good, we would have an opportunity to save those genetics. We could actually use the revenue from letting people come and watch them to help the science and research and help that captive breeding program do more good than harm in this particular case.
That is what I am asking my friends in the House to consider. Yes, it is going to be very popular to vote in favour of this bill. We have Free Willy and Blackfish and others movies that create the desire to do what we think is right.
Dr. Laura Graham talked about Dr. Jane Goodall. She had the same feeling about keeping chimpanzees in captivity, and then she changed her mind. As the habitat was encroaching on the natural range of these chimpanzees, as she saw how zoos and other captive facilities were treating these animals and as research and knowledge expanded, she changed her mind. I am simply asking my colleagues to at least consider that before passing this flawed legislation.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act