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Vancouver Aquarium to return to court over city bylaw banning whales and dolphins

Last Updated Feb 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm PDT

FILE - Vancouver Aquarium. (James Cybulski, NEWS 1130, Photo)

A panel of three Appeal Court judges overturned a previous ruling on Feb. 19

The ruling supports the park board's bylaw banning cetaceans in parks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The British Columbia Court of Appeal has sent the Vancouver Aquarium back to court over its attempt to quash a park board bylaw banning whales and dolphins in city parks.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation passed a bylaw amendment in May 2017 banning cetaceans being brought to or kept in city parks after two beluga whales died in captivity at the aquarium.

The facility, which is located in Stanley Park, launched a judicial review seeking to set aside the amendment on four grounds, including that the park board’s licence agreement with the facility prevented it from applying the change.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge agreed with the aquarium and declared the bylaw amendment void, but a panel of three Appeal Court judges overturned that ruling in a decision issued Tuesday.

RELATED: Vancouver Park Board pleased, aquarium worried about proposed federal law banning cetaceans in captivity

The latest judgment says a municipality cannot weaken its legislative powers in a licence agreement unless expressly authorized by a law, and there’s nothing in the Vancouver Charter that would enable that.

In a statement, Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon said the board is pleased by today’s decision.

“The amendment to our bylaw is thoughtful and reflective of public opinion,” Mackinnon said. “The Court’s decision upholds our legislative powers to regulate activities and operations within our parks.”

The high court sent the matter back to the B.C. Supreme Court for determination of the aquarium’s other three grounds challenging the bylaw amendment.

Ocean Wise, the organization that runs the aquarium, told NEWS 1130 in a statement that the judgment will have a major impact on their operations.

“The matters raised by the appeal are of great significance to the operations of our not-for-profit marine science centre,” the statement read.

Ocean Wise said they will be reviewing the judgment with their legal team.

The aquarium has a long-term lease with the board and has been in Stanley Park since 1959. The lease runs until 2029.

With files from the Canadian Press.