On Monday, June 10, a bill was passed in the House of Commons that bans keeping a whale, dolphin or porpoise in captivity. The bill also restricts importing and exporting cetaceans, and bans having them perform for entertainment.

This bill, known as the "Free Willy" bill (named after that movie that all made us cry when we were kids - you know the one), was passed almost four years after its introduction.

Though the bill has been met with some resistance, many are applauding it as a shining example of bi-partisan effort.


What is the bill?

Bill 203, or the "Free Willy" bill, was first introduced by Wilfred Moore in December 2015. It bans the keeping and reproduction of cetaceans, including keeping sperm or an embryo.

Offenders could be fined up to $200 000 for not complying with the bill.


Where are there whales and dolphins in captivity in Canada?

Currently, two parks keep whales and dolphins in captivity: Marineland, and the Vancouver Aquarium. The latter vowed last year to end its whale program. It currently only has one whale, which they hope to move elsewhere so it can have companionship.


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Will Marineland be affected?

The bill includes a "grandfather clause," which means that institutions that currently have cetaceans will not be affected. Marineland owns about 61 cetaceans.

The park can no longer make their animals perform for entertainment, however. 

The park has strongly opposed the bill, disputing the idea that keeping whales and dolphins in captivity constitutes abuse. They also cite the loss of revenue and jobs when the park shuts down as an argument against the bill.

With the animals it currently has, Marineland is expected to be in operation for at least 30 more years.


What are some other exceptions?

The bill also cites that, if an animal is injured or in need of help, "a person may move a live cetacean from its immediate vicinity."

It also excludes scientific research.


Who supports the bill?

The bill is considered to be largely a bipartisan effort. A majority of Liberals and members of the NDP party support the bill. The Green party have been very vocal about their support. It was also championed by a number of animal activists and groups.

Members of the Conservative party spoke out in opposition to the bill.


The bill has been applauded by many animal activism groups as a move in the right direction. It is unclear how far these impacts will reverberate - if other animals will soon no longer be allowed to stay in captivity.

Read the full bill here.

Find out more about Marineland's response to the bill on CBC.

Read the National Post article about the bill here.

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