Two animal rights groups have been granted the right to intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium's lawsuit against the park board over its ban on displaying whales and dolphins.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck were both granted intervener status Friday in B.C. Supreme Court. The two groups say they plan to focus on the aquarium's argument that the park board ban infringes on the Charter right to free expression.

Animal Justice's executive director, Camille Labchuk, described that argument as "extremely disturbing" in an interview with CBC News.

"If such a claim were accepted, it could have drastic consequences for animals right from one coast of this country to the other. It would make  it very difficult for any government to pass laws protecting animals, because they could be vulnerable to challenge," she said.

An aquarium representative said she had no comment about the news.

The non-profit filed in June for a judicial review of the new bylaw amendment, also arguing that the park board doesn't have the legal power to enact the ban, that the language in the amendment is too vague, and that the board refused to hear from aquarium representatives before approving the ban.

The B.C. SPCA and Vancouver Humane Society have also applied for intervener status in the case, both with the intention of arguing in support of the ban. No decision has been made in that application.

With files from Deborah Goble