Senator Murray Sinclair of Manitoba addresses his colleagues on behalf of S-203 – the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act.
“How would you feel if you had to spend the rest of your life in a bathtub?”
That was a key question that Senator Murray Sinclair posed in a remarkable speech to members of the Canadian Senate on Tuesday, May 29th.
It was the third reading of Bill S-203, which would phase out the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises for the purpose of profit and entertainment.
Sen. Sinclair noted that the bill was first introduced in December 2015 by Sen. Wilfred Moore, who has since retired but is continuing to work with others, including the Whale Sanctuary Project, “towards the realization of Canada becoming the home of the world’s first open-water seaside sanctuary for whales.”
“The intention of this sanctuary,” Sen. Sinclair continued, “is to provide a place where rescued whales and dolphins can be rehabilitated for release while living in an environment that maximizes their well-being and autonomy in a setting as close as possible to their natural habitat, or where they might remain permanently if unreleasable. Some locations being considered for this sanctuary are British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Washington State.”
“Everything we do has an effect on other life forms.”
Since its introduction, the bill has been stalled several times by opponents. It took more than a year for it to go to the standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which held 17 hearings and heard from more than 40 witnesses, including several from the Whale Sanctuary Project.
In October 2017, the committee sent its report back to the Senate, but it was not adopted until April 2018. “Now here we are, 29 months, 21 days later,” Sen. Sinclair said on Tuesday.
The future of the bill is still uncertain. But what is quite certain is that the senator’s speech will be remembered as one of the great calls to action in the history of animal protection. Here is how it concludes:
“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, 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.”