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BC Supreme Court rules in favour of Vancouver Aquarium

Last Updated Feb 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS1130 Photo)

Park Board has no jurisdiction to infringe on Charter statute allowing aquarium to keep cetaceans in Stanley Park

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Park Board has lost in the case between it and the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Park Board had passed a bylaw amendment last May prohibiting keeping cetaceans in parks. The Ocean Wise Conservation Association, the non-profit society that runs the aquarium, filed an application for judicial review last year challenging the decision.

But a BC Supreme Court judge has ruled the Park Board has no jurisdiction to change a statute of the Vancouver Charter that allows the Aquarium to continue to keep the animals through 2029.

The aquarium has a licensing agreement with the park board that allows it to operate within Stanley Park.

BC Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mayer says the agreement states the board will not interfere with the day-to-day administration of the aquarium, and as a result the bylaw amendment is unenforceable against the facility.

He stopped short of striking down the bylaw completely, saying such amendments would be enforceable in parks and facilities that don’t include the Marine Science Centre in Stanley Park.

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Last month, the Aquarium’s president and CEO announced that the tourist attraction will no longer house whales or dolphins.

On January 18th, Dr. John Nightingale admitted he’s been frustrated and disheartened since the Park Board brought in the ban.

The whales belonging to the facility are currently on loan across the US while its one Pacific white-sided dolphin, Helen, remains here.

The Park Board implemented a ban on all cetaceans after Aurora and Qila, a pair of mother/daughter belugas died within just 10 days of each other in 2016. An investigation found the two died of unknown toxins.

The Park Board says today’s decision is being reviewed and it issued a statement on Friday afternoon.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has received the judgment this morning from the BC Supreme Court regarding the Board’s amendment of the Parks Control By-law to restrict the importation and keeping of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park.

The Park Board is obviously disappointed with the conclusion the court reached in this matter. The Board will be reviewing the reasons for judgment and considering its options going forward. The Board will have no further comment on this matter until after the Commissioners have an opportunity to meet, review the decision with legal counsel and determine next steps.

Vancouver Aquarium pleased with decision

The Vancouver Aquarium has not made anyone available to speak to reporters, but has issued a statement, saying staff are happy with the  decision and will be taking time to review the judgement.

We appreciate the timely judgment from the Honourable Mr. Justice Mayer on our petition against the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and the City of Vancouver.

We are pleased with the decision and that our position has been sustained by the BC Supreme Court.

The matters raised in our petition are of great significance to the operations of our not-for-profit marine science centre, the Vancouver Aquarium.

We will need to take the time necessary to review the judgment with our legal counsel and consider the implications it may have on our organization before determining our future course of action or making any further public statements about these matters.