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What Jane Goodall Act could mean for animals | Victoria Shroff

Wednesday, December 02, 2020 @ 10:26 AM | By Victoria Shroff

Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
In part one of this article I wrote about the mighty Canadian federal animal protection Bill S-218, put forward by Sen. Murray Sinclair and supported by the bill’s namesake, Dr. Jane Goodall.

The far-reaching, well-thought-out Jane Goodall Act has much to recommend it eventually becoming law to protect captive animals. (Unfortunately, since writing part one of this article, I learned that Sinclair will be retiring from the Senate in January 2021. I hope we can count on others in Ottawa to carry forward his mandate to help animals.)

Fairness, access to justice front, centre

This bill is a great backdrop for the continuing conversation about access to justice; fairness is a pressing issue in animal protection. As I stated in an article about Punky Santics, Canada’s everydog, the “dangerous” dog case we filed for leave at the Supreme Court of Canada, though was ultimately dismissed, “Punky’s struggle through the justice system stands for how animals access courts, justice and the pressing need to value every single animal life and the right to fight for their protection.” (Please see: Legacy of Canada’s everydog, Punky Santics.)

The proposed legislation is quite clearly an extension of Canada’s 2019 laws phasing out whale and dolphin captivity for entertainment. The landmark 2019 Canadian animal law victory banning whales and dolphins in captivity was also a law which Sinclair helped spearhead with retired Sen. Wilfred Moore, MP Elizabeth May and others. (Please see: Free Willy bill whale of a win for cetaceans. To learn more about the cetacean ban, please see: Canada ends whale and dolphin captivity: Senator Sinclair’s bill adopted.)

If passed, the Jane Goodall Act would be a monumental stride for captive animals and I hope, in time, protections can gradually be expanded to include other species. Specifically, the Act would:

  • Establish legal standing for great apes, elephants, whales and dolphins in sentencing for captivity offences, allowing court orders for relocation or improved conditions. Though limited in nature, Bill S-218 enumerates that it would provide limited standing for animals in court. Animals do not currently have standing in court in Canada, so as an animal lawyer, this is amazing. The bill takes into account the best interest of individual animals. At the sentencing hearing post-conviction a court may appoint an animal advocate to participate in the process. This too, would be a big stride forward for animal law in Canada.
  • Ban new captivity of great apes and elephants unless licensed for their best interests, including individual welfare and conservation, or non-harmful scientific research;
  • Ban the use of great apes and elephants in performance, including elephant rides. This is an important as animals should not be used as entertainers;
  • Empower government to extend all the protections to other species of captive, non-domesticated animals, such as big cats, by regulation with the “Noah Clause.” Governments will be able to have more power to expand protections to other species as well;  and
  • Ban the import of elephant ivory and hunting trophies into Canada. So called trophy hunting is also a lot more common than most Canadians would believe. The Ivory-Free Canada Coalition has had a petition for banning hunting trophies and elephant ivory in Canada that has apparently become one of the most endorsed petitions on 

Elephant ivory, exotic species, CITES, illegal wildlife trade

The bill addresses the global problem of elephants being senselessly slaughtered for their ivory tusks and imported into Canada. Though for over 20 years, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), it has been illegal to sell elephant ivory internationally, it’s difficult to enforce as countries have their own internal laws pertaining to the sale of ivory domestically, hence a viable avenue to stop the killing and trade is to ban the ivory trade globally to protect the world elephant population from further decimation.

Several countries like the U.K., Singapore and France have already banned domestic ivory sales and this bill says it’s time for Canada to follow suit. The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada noted that 40 years ago, there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa and now there are only about 400,000 with an estimated 20,000 killed annually for their ivory. We are heading toward extinction.

Trade in exotic animals, endangered wildlife is a massive global problem in need of solutions as it is not only linked with destruction of wildlife, it is tied into international criminal activities. In March 2020, politicians, wildlife experts and academics called for a new global protocol to encompass wildlife trade under the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. We have a mandate under Canada’s federal wildlife enforcement directorate to prohibit smuggling or exotic species into the country but enforcement is a huge issue and it is under-resourced.

In Canada, I understand we currently have 33 great apes, nine chimpanzees, 18 gorillas, six orangutans and 20 elephants in captivity when we should have zero. That’s 86 captive animals too many, not to mention the thousands of exotic animals kept by people in their homes.

The illegal and illicit trade in wild and exotic animals is interconnected globally. Trade in wildlife like big cats is a global issue that needs to be halted entirely. Aside from being abhorrent, it is not sustainable. I have been liaising with animal law colleagues around the world. Some of my Australian friends at Nature Needs More and For the Love of Wildlife sent me a 2020 report called Debunking Sustainable Use which analyzes the sustainable use model in relation to trade in endangered wildlife.

Animals are not entertainers

Sinclair’s ethos expressed as, “All my relations” indicates that it’s time to rethink the roles of animals in our lives, to employ stewardship rather than ownership principles. Professor Goodall talked about how degrading it is to use intelligent animals as entertainers: “I gather that in Canada they actually use them for entertainment and giving tourists rides. That's very insulting, really, very demeaning to their role in our lives.”

There is no doubt that captive, wild and exotic animals forced to perform as entertainers in zoos, circuses and aquaria live very demeaning lives and deserve to have their best interests accounted for, not to be used to give tourists a cheap thrill and to make money for theme park owners or be on display in zoos and aquaria. It is clear that most Canadians have moved beyond believing animals are there for their entertainment or to be hunted.

A 2019 poll by Research Co. indicated that the majority of the Canadian populous is against keeping animals in aquaria, zoos or using them in rodeos. Many Canadians also oppose trophy hunting and the fur trade. 

In the next section of this article, I will discuss some of the critiques about Bill S-218, namely that it only helps captive elephants, great apes, big cats or that it thereby creates a hierarchy among animals who are worthy of protection while not addressing the massive numbers of animals slaughtered in commercial agriculture. I am not impervious to these critiques, but I remain a big supporter of the Jane Goodall bill for heightening the dialogue on animals, the law and access to justice.

This is the second instalment of a multi-part article. Part one: Proposed Jane Goodall Act game-changing animal law breakthrough

Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for over 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates and she is erstwhile adjunct professor of animal law at UBC’s Allard Hall Law School. She is recognized internationally as an animal law expert and is frequently interviewed by media. Reach her at or LinkedIn.

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