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 2917 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.
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.
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.
The aquarium’s operator, the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, says in a statement the matters raised by the appeal are of great significance to the facility’s operations.
“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,” the statement says.
Park board chairman Stuart Mackinnon says the board is pleased with the top court’s ruling.
“The amendment to our bylaw is thoughtful and reflective of public opinion. The court’s decision upholds our legislative powers to regulate activities and operations within our parks,” he says in a statement.
The aquarium announced last year it would no longer house dolphins or whales, but said it was important to continue to pursue the court case because it opposed the park board using a bylaw to alter its licence agreement.