Lawmakers have presented a new bill to the Canadian Senate that seeks to protect captive wild animals across the country.
Senator Marty Klyne formally introduced the bill, called the Jane Goodall Act, yesterday.
The proposed legislation seeks to completely phase out elephant captivity in Canada, including the import and breeding of the species.
This move could have a far-reaching impact, given elephant populations are struggling. In part, due to human interference, such as ivory trading.
Last year, the African savanna elephant and African forest elephant were classified as endangered and critically endangered, respectively. The Asian elephant is also classified as endangered, with its population halving in the last 75 years.
The Jane Goodall Act, if implemented, would also outlaw the ownership, breeding, and possession of a multitude of other exotic animals, thwarting the business models of many zoos.
The number of zoos operating in Canada today is unclear, but Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) – a private organization representing animal entertainment facilities – has 26 animal parks, aquariums, and other attractions on its accreditation list at the time of writing.
Additionally, under the proposed act, private individuals who attempt to keep wild animals in captivity would also be greeted with legal obstacles.
Big cats, bears, great apes, whales, dolphins, coyotes, wolves, seals, sea lions, alligators, crocodiles, and several types of exotic lizards and snakes all receive protections under the act.
Further, the bill would allow the federal government to more easily restrict the captivity of additional species in the future.
“The Jane Goodall Act would protect a broad array of large, sentient animals like lions, tigers, bears, and apes from suffering unnatural conditions inside tiny enclosures,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice .
“Polls show that most Canadians are opposed to confining animals in zoos and aquariums, and this important new law takes a giant leap toward improving saving countless animals from a lifetime of suffering in captivity.”
Indeed, a poll conducted by Research Co. in 2019 found that more than half (52 percent) of Canadians were against keeping animals in zoos or aquariums. Moreover, 59 percent said they oppose animal involvement in rodeos.
A ‘global leader’ in animal protection
Labchuk continued: “The bill would also offer animals limited legal standing to animals in some court proceedings. If adopted, this precedent-setting move would make Canada a global leader in ensuring the courts are able to consider the best interests of individual animals.”
The bill, backed by Dame Goodall herself, was first introduced in November 2020, and has since been updated to include more species.
The proposed legislation takes inspiration from the Free Willy Act (Bill S-203). That act, passed in 2019, aimed to phase out the captivity, breeding, and trade of whales and dolphins.
Staff lawyer at Animal Justice, Kaitlyn Mitchell, expects that the Jane Goodall Act will move through the legislative process in the coming months. Amendments may be made during the committee stage, she said to Plant Based News, and if all goes to plan, the bill will then be considered in the House of Commons.
Mitchell told us: “We believe that just like the ‘Free Willy bill’ before it, which aimed to phase out whale and dolphin captivity across Canada, the Jane Goodall Act will have the support of the Canadian public, and are optimistic that it will ultimately become law in Canada.”
Those interested can show their support for the Jane Goodall Act by signing this online petition.