Shark finning is the act of removing fins from sharks and discarding the rest of the shark. The sharks are often still alive when discarded, but without their fins. Shark finning has been illegal in Canada since 1994, but importing fins from other regions and countries without such regulations is allowed.
Over the past decade, attempts were made to ban possession, sale or consumption of shark fin products in Canada. Around 2011, many Ontario city Councils imposed a ban. The City of Toronto was one of those Canadian cities. At that time, members of Toronto's Chinese business community challenged that ban.
Eventually, the ban was overturned by the Ontario Supreme Court on December 1, 2012. While the judge agreed that the practice of shark finning was inhuman, he did not agree with Toronto's justification of a legitimate local purpose —– namely, that the consumption of shark fins may have an "adverse impact" on the health and safety of its residents and on the environmental well-being of the city. It was ruled that it was not the responsibility of the city to impose a ban and as such it did not have jurisdiction over it. On 27 March 2013 a private members bill to ban shark fin imports into Canada also failed in the House of Commons when it did not receive unanimous support.
With the failure of the ban and legislation, Shark's fin soup - a traditional soup or stewed dish found in Chinese cuisine was allowed to survive on Chinese restaurant menus. The shark fins provide texture, while the taste comes from the other soup ingredients. It is commonly served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets.
All is not forgotten by the animal welfare groups that vigorously oppose finning on perceived moral grounds and also because it is one cause for the rapid decline of global shark populations. They lobbied Conservative Party Senate member Michael L. MacDonald to introduce a Senate Public Bill in 2017.
Bill S-238 is an Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (relating to importation and exportation of shark fins). S-238 is the “Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation Act”. Like bills introduced in the House of Commons, it must go through the following steps:
Introduction and first reading, second reading, Committee review, Report stage, and third reading.
It is then sent to the House of Commons for its members to repeat the steps above. If the bill originated in the Senate and has been passed by both chambers in the same form, it is presented for Royal Assent. At this moment, Bill S-238 was passed by the Senate on October 23, 2018.
Amendments are to be made to the Importation and exportation of shark fins. Under the new rule, “No person shall, except under and in accordance with a permit issued pursuant to subsection 10(1.1), import or export, or attempt to import or export, into or from Canada shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins.”
This law means that only the Minister responsible can permit an exemption based on scientific research purposes. All shark fins must only enter (import) or exit (export from) Canada when attached to a shark carcass (body). Effectively, it would ban shark's fins from Canada once the law is passed.
This impending law was not widely publicized in the Chinese Communities in China at this time. There is still time for the Chinese restaurant owners to organize and protest this new legislation. It is perceived that the Liberal government may want to pass this law before the next Federal Election in Oct 2019. For those who still want to taste their Shark's fin soup and do not want to get the “imitation products”, time is running out.
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