BILL S-15 To Protect Elephants & Great Apes in Canada



Bill S-15, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act was introduced into the Senate of Canada in November 2023. If passed, the Bill would effectively phase out the captivity of elephants and great apes purely for display, entertainment or profit in Canada. It’s a law that would finally recognize that elephants and great apes require far greater recognition and protection than they have been given in the past.

Elephants and great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans) are highly sentient animals who have very advanced cognitive, emotional, social and welfare needs. Their lives in the wild are complex and stimulating and can never be meaningfully replicated in captive settings. If these animals are kept in captivity, it should only be under exceptional circumstances where it is in their best interests (such as retirement to a sanctuary) or where there is a bona fide conservation purpose that is connected to protecting them in the wild.

While Bill S-15 is a long overdue and necessary law, Zoocheck and other animal welfare organizations and some zoos are also pushing for the inclusion of big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, jaguars and cheetahs) into the current bill’s framework and a “Noah Clause” that would allow the government to add more species to this legislation in future as scientific understanding evolves, without undergoing the lengthy legislative process again.

Canada currently has a patchwork of laws and regulations that provide only loose protections for wildlife in captivity. In some jurisdictions in Canada, a wide range of wildlife species can be kept for display, business or personal amusement as pets. The worst jurisdiction by far is Ontario where exotic wildlife in captivity is completely unregulated by the province, but there are many significant deficiencies in laws elsewhere across the country as well.

Bill S-15 is now in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs clause by clause study which is expected to be finished in June 2024. If passed by the Senate, Bill S-15 will then move on to the House of Commons.