And The Yeas Have It! MMA Given Legal Framework in Canada

Posted: June 5, 2013 in Bill S-209, Federal MMA Law, Uncategorized

photo s209

Canadians have embraced Mixed Martial Arts since the Sport’s inception.  Despite this MMA has always been illegal in Canada.  The long road to legalization is nearing an end with Bill S-209 now passing Third Reading in Parliament with a vote of 267-9 allowing for a legal framework for both professional and amateur MMA along with other combat sports.

What does Bill S-209 do?

Section 83 of the Criminal Code makes prize fighting illegal except in limited circumstances.  Since 1934 the exceptions were limited to “boxing”.  Bill S-209 has expanded the circumstances for legal prizefights to include MMA and other sports.

The default is that Prize fights will remain illegal in Canada.  Bill S-209 permits Provinces to regulate Professional MMA in addition to boxing.  This clears the way for Provinces to have the power to create Athletic Commissions to regulate and sanction professional MMA Bouts.  This will give Provincial posts such as the Athletic Commissioner of Ontario and the BC Athletic Commissioner actual authority to use their powers to sanction legal MMA.  This will also remove the need for Provinces such as Quebec to invent sports such as “mixed boxing” to get around the old Criminal Code prohibition.  Lastly, it will hopefully provide motivation for Provinces that have been too gun-shy to regulate MMA to date to create athletic commissions and bring the sport above ground.

What About Combat Sports Other than MMA?

One of the shortcomings of Bill S-209′s language is that it limits Provincial authority to sanction professional “boxing contests or mixed martial arts contests” .

It can be argued that given this specific language other professional combat sports such as kickboxing cannot be regulated, therefore they will remain illegal.  BC appears to have taken this stance.

Perhaps the more sensible interpretation of the Provinces powers is that if they can regulate professional MMA they can regulated any subset martial art so long as the contest’s rules do not allow techniques outlawed by MMA.  For example, all techniques that are legal in a professional kickboxing match are also legal in MMA and it could be argued that a Province is well within their rights to regulate and sanction such sports.

What About Amateur MMA and Other Combat Sports?

Some Amateur combat sports will be legal by default and others will remain illegal by default, this includes amateur MMA.

Amateur combat sports that will be legal by default will include those  “in the programme of the International Olympic Committee”.    These include  Boxing, Wrestling, Judo and Tae Kwon Do.

Other Amateur combat sports, such as MMA, Kickboxing and Karate, remain illegal by default.  However, Bill S-209 allows this to be fixed by permitting Provinces to make them legal by specifically designating them. This is a useful tool and one that each Province should quickly use to give all Canadians a list of permitted amateur combat sports.

In short, Bill S-209 is a welcome change to the Canadian combat sports legal landscape.  I encourage all stakeholders in the combat sports community to now contact your Provincial authorities and encourage them to pass legislation addressing the amateur gap.

Here is video of the actual vote

Comments
  1. […] And The Yeas Have It! MMA Given Legal Framework in Canada […]

  2. […] Bill S-209, which overhauled the Criminal Code to allow Provinces to give MMA a legal framework in C… has now received Royal Assent.  This makes the new law now in force.  MP Bal Gosal issued the following comments: […]

  3. […] With Bill S-209 now in force the legislative floodgates are opening with regional governments passing laws addressing mixed martial arts and other combat sports.   This is a quickly changing legal landscape in Canada.  Alberta’s Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) is the latest to enter the fray with the City Council having just passed a Combative Sports Commission Bylaw. […]

  4. […] With Bill S-209 now in force, the legislative floodgates are opening with regional governments passing laws addressing mixed martial arts and other combat sports.   Alberta’s Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) is the latest to enter the fray with the City Council having just passed a Combative Sports Commission Bylaw. […]

  5. […] Breaking down the legality of MMA in Canada on a Province by Province basis is an interesting exercise given the strange legislative patchwork various Provinces put together trying to get around the pre Bill S-209 version of the Criminal Code. […]

  6. […] section 83 of the Criminal Code was overhauled by Bill S-209 there have not been any prosecutions under the the new section so to get things started I will […]

  7. […] As previously discussed,  Canadian federal law designates amateur combat sports  ”in the programme of the International Olympic Committee” legal by default.    These include  Boxing, Wrestling, Judo and Tae Kwon Do.  These amateur combat sports are legal and do not require government regulation unless Provinces pass legislation to the contrary. […]

  8. […] jurisdictions can take a page from British Columbia when it comes to regulating combat sports in the post Bill S-209 world.  BC now has the clearest Province wide legal framework for amateur MMA and for professional MMA […]

  9. […] The City of Yellowknife has a long history of hosting and regulating combat sport events including Mixed Martial Arts.  Despite this history, can the City legally regulate MMA events given the newly amended section 83 of the Criminal Code? […]

  10. […] still is in the dark ages making many traditional martial arts competitions illegal as well.  Given the recent Criminal Code overhaul to section 83, non-Olympic martial arts are illegal by default.   The Ontario government (along with other […]

  11. […] As previously discussed, Bill S-209 did not make MMA legal in all of Canada, instead it made the sport illegal by default and forced Provinces to pass appropriate laws if they wished to change this.  Provinces that fail to act in a timely manner jeopardize the local landscape of the sport.  Such a situation appears to now be unraveling in New Brunswick. […]

  12. […] As previously discussed, Bill S-209 did not make MMA legal in all of Canada, instead it made the sport illegal by default and forced Provinces to pass appropriate laws if they wished to change this.  Provinces that fail to act in a timely manner jeopardize the local landscape of the sport.  Such a situation appears to now be unraveling in New Brunswick. […]

  13. […] While the event organizers have good reason to be upset by the 11th hour government shutdown, the local authorities are not out of line in their legal position.  This serves as a real-world reminder that the law in Canada is now clear that amateur combat sports outside of those in the Programme of the IOC (boxing, judo, wrestling and taekwondo) are illegal by default.  Provinces can overcome this default position by passing appropriate local laws designating which combat sports can be held in compliance with Section 83 of the Criminal Code.  You can click here for a summary of what Bill S-209 does and the ways to comply with the law. […]

  14. […] this year I wrote to the Government of Ontario asking if they will use the powers section 83 of the Criminal Code gives them to legalize amateur combat sports.  So far they have replied with […]

  15. […] The Sport must be established “in a minimum of 8 Provinces / Territories“.   Since AMMA is illegal by default due to section 83 of the Criminal Code at least 8 Provinces or Territories will need to pass laws legalizing MMA.  This is by far the […]

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