Willy is finally free—at least in Canada. The Canadian House of Commons on Monday passed a bill making it illegal to hold whales or dolphins in captivity. Bill S-203, which has been nicknamed the “Free Willy” bill, in homage to the 1993 film of the same name, applies to owners of whales, dolphins, or porpoises.
The bill also bans the breeding or impregnation of any cetacean, as well as the possession of their sperm or embryo. The new rules do not apply to animals in custody for rehabilitation purposes or to those being held by government-licensed researchers. It also allows parks currently holding animals in captivity to keep those already owned.
The bill’s passage has been lauded by activists, including former animal trainer Phil Demers, who told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the new law is validation for those who “have been stressing for many decades” about the treatment of mammals in captivity. Any unlicensed person who promotes, arranges, or is otherwise involved in exploiting a cetacean for entertainment purposes can be found guilty, and offenders could face fines up to $200,000.