31 January 2017

No More Cetaceans in Our Parks. Ever.

At the last Park Board meeting (23 January 2017), on a 4-3 vote, the Commissioners deferred a motion on asking City Council to hold a plebiscite (assent question) on keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. The motion to refer to staff was done for different reasons depending on the Commissioner who supported it. 

For Cmmr Evans it was to hear back from staff if there are alternatives to a plebiscite within our legal mandate. For Cmmr Wiebe it was to get more information on our relationship, contractually, with the Vancouver Aquarium. I'm not sure about Cmmr Shum as I don't recall her speaking. For me it was to be able to hear from the public. Our strange rules don't allow the public to speak at Park Board meetings, but they can at Park Board Committee meetings. The referral moves this item to the Committee where the public can express their views. 

The motion itself was interesting as Part A specifically named the Aquarium in the plebiscite question, rather than Vancouver Parks. This oversight could have the consequence of banning cetaceans at the Aquarium but not other places in our park system.

Part C of the motion asks the Park Board to "Write to the Vancouver Aquarium asking it consider not bringing cetaceans into the facility until after the results of the 2018 plebiscite are received" This, in my opinion, is a very weak part of the motion as it does very little toward what many have sought--a moratorium on importation of cetaceans from other Aquaria. It does not specifically ask them for a moratorium, but only to 'consider not bringing in' any cetaceans until 2018. 

I have been on record as opposed to cetaceans--in fact all aquatic mammals--in captivity since at least 2005 when I was first a candidate for local government in Vancouver. (I have actually opposed this since the 1970's when I watched the baby beluga die at the aquarium and saw the terrible conditions the otters, seals, and bears were in at the zoo.) At that time, and up until the recent past, my preference for a plebiscite has been based on the notion that we would have to fight to get a plebiscite passed. I am no longer sure that that is true. I believe the public has moved considerably on this issue and there may be another way to achieve our goal. 

If you go back on this blog to July 2010 you can see my comments on the plebiscite motion I brought forward to the Board then. Interestingly, it was the NPA along with Vision Vancouver who opposed my 2010 motion. Today the NPA have seemingly moved toward a vote, though they have flip/flopped numerous times. In 1996 they supported, in 2003 and 2004 they opposed. Again in 2010 they opposed and now they are supporting. 


Democracy can appear slow and awkward at times, but if we are to do this, we must do it right. I don't want another Board reversing (as happened in 2004) this decision. I want this to be settled once and for all. No more cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver parks. Ever.

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