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Shark fin ban overturned

Shark fin soup. -
Shark fin soup.
— image credit:

Richmond's civic politicians will have an easy decision to make on a possible ban of shark fin products if they heed warnings of an Ontario court.

Justice James Spence has ruled the City of Toronto acted above its powers in banning the sale, possession and consumption of shark fins and shark-fin food products. In his Nov. 30 decision, the Ontario Superior Court judge deemed the city's bylaw invalid.

Spence called Toronto's bylaw "highly intrusive" and noted it is reasonable to expect it would have a detrimental effect on restaurant operators—and Chinese culture.

"It will detrimentally affect the ability of members of the Chinese community to participate in what some people in the community regard as a practice that is an important part of their traditional practices as members of the Chinese community."

In dismissing the bylaw, the judge concluded it "lacks a proper municipal purpose."

Several Metro Vancouver cities have already enacted a ban to curb the practice of shark finning, which activists say is cruel and puts species at risk of extinction. But senior staff at Richmond City Hall have been waiting for the Toronto ruling before making a recommendation to council.

The Ontario judge cautioned other cities against passing laws that don't have a "proper municipal purpose."

"The power to deal with municipal issues is a broad power," the court heard. "However, that fact does not mean that an issue is a municipal issue merely because a policy decision taken by city council that an issue is important…"

Hughes Eng, Barbara Chiu, Peter Tam and Jacky Ma, backed by the Fair and Responsible Governance alliance, launched the court challenge—the first challenge in Canada of a shark fin ban.

Canadian cities are not considered major markets for shark fin soup, Judge Spence noted. Ninety-five per cent of shark fins are consumed in China

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