Park Board decides: No breeding ban, no ‘Oversight Committee’

The Park Board has voted… to do nothing. The commissioners have referred the issue to the next board instead, as had been recommended by Park Board staff. Chair Aaron Jasper called upon the new board to review the information available, and to engage in further public consultation.

The NPA, which has a majority on the new board, has vowed to repeal the previous board’s decision. However, with no by-law having been enacted, there is nothing that actually needs to be repealed.

Jasper finished by wishing the new board all the best. We would like to second that, and hope that the incoming commissioners, rather than rushing through the process, will take the time to review all facts carefully. If the NPA sticks to their promise, the Aquarium will finally be able to stop wasting time and money on these issues that could otherwise be spent for education, conservation, rescue and rehabilitation.

Decisions must be made based on facts and science, not feelings alone

The last time the Park Board voted regarding the Vancouver Aquarium, Vision Vancouver commissioner Constance Barnes compared cetacean captivity to human slavery saying, “Less than 100 years ago, my people were being bred, and less than 100 years ago, my people were being sold.”

Reporters and the people around listened and nodded and no one asked, “Are you saying there was slavery in Canada after 1914?”

They didn’t say anything because what Commissioner Barnes stated was said with passion and conviction. She spoke from the heart. And even though it was clear to anyone who thought about it for five seconds that it was factually inaccurate, no one questioned it. Maybe she meant slavery somewhere else in the world, maybe she meant 200 years. We don’t know because no one there asked. What she said wasn’t true but it felt true and at that meeting, that was all that mattered.

Vision Vancouver Board Chair Aaron Jasper said, “I’m not a whale biologist, I’m a realtor, and sometimes you just have to go with your gut.”

Not one reporter asked if a realtor going with feelings on a subject they admit to not fully understanding was a good idea. There’s an adult conversation that can be had about breeding and captivity but when you take science out of it and start making up history we’re in trouble.

At every Vancouver Aquarium protest people bring signs with orcas on them, wanting them to be freed. There aren’t any. They want wild whales to stop being caught and taken away from their families. That’s been banned. But no reporter ever brings this up. Everyone gets to state their feelings like they’re facts because their passion makes for a good looking story.

As long as we keep allowing feelings and facts to have equal weight we’re endangering the animals and stopping a real debate from happening. Please start to question what you hear from all sides on this issue and do some fact checking afterwards, that’s how you get to the truth. A person who loves animals will give a hungry dog their chocolate bar but good intentions and bad information can do much more harm than good.

2014 Civic Election: Which candidates support the Vancouver Aquarium?

The 2014 civic election is just around the corner and many Aquarium supporters are still unsure which candidates to vote for. With the Park Board candidates tending to stick to their party lines, and with many candidates not having expressed personal views on the Vancouver Aquarium, perhaps it makes sense to look at the political parties and their positions instead (in no particular order):

PartyPosition on CetaceansMayoral Candidate or Party Leader
VisionParty leader and current mayor Gregor Robertson stated that he would prefer a Vancouver Aquarium without cetaceans. He wants the cetacean program phased out1).Gregor Robertson
NPAParty leader Kirk LaPointe noted that he would overturn the previous Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation decision to ban breeding of whales, porpoises and dolphins in Stanley Park. LaPointe supports cetacean conservation and research at the Vancouver Aquarium2).Kirk LaPointe
COPECOPE favours a referendum on cetaceans in human care. If the results indicated that the electorate was opposed to cetaceans in human care, they would like to see a phase-out.Meena Wong
GreenGreen Party Councillor Adriane Carr noted that she would like to see cetaceans phased out and would call for a referendum. Carr brought forth a motion before City Council in April 2014 calling for a referendum at that time, which was turned down3).Adriane Carr (defacto)
Vancouver 1stVancouver 1st commits to and believes in the complete autonomy and independence of the Vancouver Aquarium and the society that runs it.
Vancouver 1st believes that the experts that have run the aquarium for the many decades have done an excellent job and that city hall should not interfere in the daily operations of the Aquarium and the thousands of animals that they care for and rescue.
Jesse Johl
Cedar PartyNo policy statement – no candidates running for Park BoardGlen Chernen
Hotel Workers UnitedNo policy statement – candidate is running for city councillorFerdinad Ramos
Independent Democratic Electors AllianceNo policy statement – candidate is running for city councillorJamie Lee Hamilton
One City VancouverNo policy statement – candidate running for city councillorAJ Aquino
Public Education ProjectNo policy statement – candidates running for Board of School TrusteesJane Bouey
Stop PartyNo policy statementMeynard Aubichon
IndependentNo stated position on cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium.Bob Kasting
IndependentNo stated position on cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium.Colin Shandler
IndependentRunning for Park Board – in favour of a referendum on cetaceans in human careJenny de Castris
IndependentRunning for Park Board – in favour of phasing out cetaceans in human care
James (Jim) Buckshon
IndependentRunning for Park Board – does not want an aquarium in Stanley ParkEleanor Hadley

The idea of a non-binding plebiscite

It is important to point out that the idea of a referendum as introduced by some parties and individuals4) would be a very costly undertaking for both the City of Vancouver as well as the Vancouver Aquarium, which as a non-profit would have to divert funds away from research, education, rescue and rehabilitation in order to cover an information campaign which would enable voters to make an informed decision.

Finding a question to meet the requirement of being specific enough but not overly complex alone would be a very difficult task. The issues being discussed cannot be easily summed up and all parties involved would have to spend  a significant amount of time on educating the public on those issues and the implications of a vote for one position or the other.

The term ‘plebiscite’ or ‘referendum’ is also slightly misleading, as the Vancouver Charter only knows a non-binding question5) that would not have any direct effects, and the result could easily be ignored by the Council, or a decision overturned by a later Council.

References   [ + ]

1.Mayor Gregor Robertson: "My personal view is that the Vancouver Aquarium should begin to phase out the holding of whales and dolphins in captivity. I’m hopeful that the aquarium and the park board can work collaboratively and come to an agreement on how to achieve this [...]", CBC News, April 10, 2014
2.Kirk LaPointe expressed his support in an interview with CBC's Matthew Lazin-Ryder ahead of the Park Board making its decision and in a post on his campaign blog.
3.Councillor Carr's motion was rejected by City Council in April 2014.
4.Adriane Carr introduced the idea of a referendum to the City Council, which was ultimately rejected
5.“The Council, for its own information, may submit for the opinion of the electors any question with which the Council has or desires to have the power to deal.”, Vancouver Charter, section 184