Archive for June, 2013

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Following UFC 161 the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission released the required information relating to fighter medical suspensions so these can be published at the Association of Boxing Commissions Official Certified Database for Mixed Martial Arts.  This is done to allow Athletic Commissions in other jurisdictions to find out whether a combatant intending to fight under their watch is under medical suspension.

MCSC’s suspension list was quite barren on details.  The announced suspensions do little more than mention defined periods or ‘indefinite’ medical suspensions with no underlying information as to the injuries leading to these.  Why were Pat Barry and Rashad Evans suspended indefinitely?  What injuries did they sustain?  This lack of information brought criticism from some MMA fans with comments such as:

This is dumb, this has to be the least descriptive medical suspensions I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Canada but normally we get a really good breakdown of exactly what will keep guys out. I’m sure it’s just cause it’s Canada“.

Should the MCSC publicly release more information?  The answer is no for a number of reasons.

First off, while the Manitoba Boxing Regulation does require the Commission to hand out medical suspensions they are strictly prohibited from sharing details.  Section 49 of the Regulation reads as follows:

Except for the purpose of enforcing the Act and this regulation, the
commission and its members, employees and agents shall maintain confidentiality
with respect to any medical report, medical certificate, and any related medical
information in its or their possession.

In addition to this, Manitoba has, like most Canadian Jurisdictions, privacy legislation making those who breach the privacy of others subject lawsuits for damages.

Now if complying with the law is not enough, there are other practical reasons why the MCSC’s silence was the right thing to do.

Fighting is a competitive business.   As in all competitive industries, knowledge is power.   Imagine if a government official published something you were forced to share with them that can harm your interests with no right to do so?

What if Rashad had broken ribs?  What if Pat Barry sustained a knee injury?  Do you think their next competitors would benefit from this information?  Of course they would.  If you want proof just think back to the viscous body shots Alistair Overeem used to retire Brock Lesnar following his well publicized diverticulitis surgery.  Camps keep fighter injuries well guarded secrets for a reason.   Its in their fighter’s best interests.  To expect Commissions to publish this valuable information simply for the public’s hunger for details goes against the best interests of the people who make a living in this trade.

Keeping all of the above in mind the MSCS’s silence is golden.

amater olympic combat sports legal in BC

As previously discussed, while there are a lot of amateur combat sports which are presently illegal in BC by operation of s. 83 of the Criminal Code, those amateur sports “on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee ” are currently legal.  These include Boxing, Taekwondo, Wresling and Judo.

After bringing this to the BC Athletic Commission’s attention they have clarified their earlier position confirming this indeed is the case.   These four specific combat sports events can be held with no government approval without infringing the Criminal Code unless “the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her requires it“.   Presently BC has no such requirement.

Below is the clarification just released by BC’s Athletic Commissioner:

In addition, amateur combat sports currently on the programme of the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) or the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) do not
require permission. The Province can, however, designate any of those combat sports
as requiring permission if it chooses.
Until such designations are made, the changes in the Criminal Code of Canada make
any amateur combat sport contest (other than combat sports on the IOC/IPC list) illegal.

Yes, once again here comes a lawyer to take all the fun out of things!  Today I will breakdown the legal authority (or lack thereof) of the Calgary Combative Sports Commission to regulate AMMA.

AFC 20 is scheduled to take place in Calgary in July and three amateur bouts are reportedly taking place.   Given the new Canadian legal landscape relating to amateur combat sports, is there a proper framework in place to regulate AMMA in Calgary?  The answer is likely no.  Here’s why –

The starting point is section 83 of the Criminal Code which makes MMA illegal unless a proper Provincial framework exists.

Section 83(2)(d) gives Provinces the ability to create commissions to regulate MMA and does not appear to be limited to professional MMA.  It specifically gives Provinces the ability to create “an athletic board, commission, or similar body” to regulate MMA so long as the body is “established by or under the authority of the province’s legislatute for the control of sport withing the province“.

In Alberta, no Province wide commission exists, with MMA instead being regulated on a municipal level.   There is nothing wrong with this so long as the municipal commissions derive their authority “by or under the authority of the province’s legislature”.   

Calgary purports to derive their authority from Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, which allows bylaws to be passed respecting “safety, heath and welfare of people” and also “business activities“.  Although the Municipal Government Act does not expressly give the City the power to regulate MMA, such a power is strongly implied  under section 535(1)which reads as follow

Protection of sporting commissions
535.1(1) In this section, “commission” means a commission
established by bylaw for controlling and regulating any of the
(a) boxing;
(b) wrestling;
(c) full contact karate;

(d) kickboxing; 

(e) any other sport that holds contests where opponents strike
each other with a hand, foot, knee, elbow or other part of
the body.

(2) A commission and its members, officers, employees and any
volunteers and officials performing duties under the direction of
any of them are not liable for anything said or done or omitted to
be done in good faith in the performance or intended performance
of their functions, duties or powers under this Act or any other
(3) Subsection (2) is not a defence if the cause of action is

MMA is clearly captured under subsection (e) so if this is an implied power Commissions can regulate MMA.  There is nothing limiting this implied power to only professional MMA.

So, assuming the Calgary commission properly derives their authority in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code, the next step is to look at the bylaw setting up the commission.  The bylaw in question is the Combative Sports Commission Bylaw.

This Bylaw creates a Commission and tasks them with authority to sanction and licence “combative sports events” .  This is where the legal authority wanes thin.  Events are defined as follows:

“combative sports event” or “event” includes any exhibition, card, contest
or promotion involving the presentation of combative sports but does not
include amateur events.

“combative sports” means a sport involving physical contact, the primary
purpose of which is the allotment of points, and includes boxing, kick
boxing, mixed martial arts and muay thai;

Since amateur events are specifically excluded from the definition of “events” the Commission does not appear to have the authority to regulate these.  This becomes particularly clear when you look at section 34(2) which holds in part that a licence shall not be required for amateur events featuring amateur contestants.

So, if the Commission does not have the authority/ability to licence an amateur event or contestant which amateur events are legal in Calgary?  Amateur Events and Amateur Contestants are defined as follows:

“amateur contestant” means anyone who participates in a combative
sport that is governed by one or more of the amateur bodies listed in
Schedule “F” and does not receive any money or other gain from such

(d.1) “amateur event” means a combative sports competition that features
amateur contestants and is governed by one or more of the amateur
bodies listed in Schedule “F”;

Schedule F goes on to list the following “governing bodies” who are given the ability to regulate amateur events:

F.1 Alberta Amateur Boxing Association and Boxing Alberta
F.2 CMTC – A, Canadian Muay Thai Council Amateur (Alberta)
F.3 World Kickboxing Association
F.4 International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur

To my knowledge none of these bodies regulate AMMA.

Where does this leave us?

1. The Commission does not appear to have the ability to regulate AMMA

2.  The permitted amateur events do not include AMMA.

Not Done Yet –

This takes us back to section 83 of the Criminal Code.  If a Provincially established commission does not have authority to regulate any given combat sport then one must look to the amateur exceptions in the Criminal Code.   Presently none of these seem to apply since MMA is not on the programme of the IOC, nor has Alberta passed the proper laws to legislate AMMA outside of the Criminal Code.  The Provincial legislature can easily fix this problem if they have the will to do so.

One last kick at the can –

I am advised that the CCSC deems AMMA to be professional thereby giving them the right to regulate the sport.  The authority for this is apparently derived from the fact that the Unified Rules of MMA specifically deal with amateur contests.

This logic, unfortunately, does not hold water.   While Schedule E of the Calgary bylaw specifically incorporates the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Unified Mixed Martial Arts Rules, and while it is true that these do deal with the regulation of AMMA, Section 52(6) of the Calgary Bylaw reads as follows:

Where there is a conflict between the rules and regulations provided for in this
Section or in the Schedules to this Bylaw and a provision of this Bylaw, the Bylaw
provision shall prevail.

In plain English this means that the Unified Rules do not trump the fact that the Calgary Bylaw does not give the commission the authority to regulate AMMA.

So, AMMA appears to, unfortunately, lack a proper framework to be legal in Calgary.

The good news is this is a problem that can be fixed.  This shortcoming can be remedied either on the Provincial level if Alberta decides to regulate MMA on a province wide basis, or, if local commissions will remain the law of the land in Alberta then the local Bylaw can be amended to specifically address AMMA.


wood buffalo logo

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.

The new bylaw received Third Reading on June 25, 2013.  The local commission will be tasked with regulating and  licencing professional “combative sports events” which are defined as follows:

“Combative Sports” means any sport that holds contests where opponents strike
each other with a hand, foot, knee, elbow or other parts of the body, including, but
not limited to, boxing, wrestling, full contact karate, kickboxing, martial arts,
mixed martial arts and muay thai;

These events will be regulated by the Commission and with this will be brought into legal compliance with section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code.

The Commission will not regulate amateur combat sports events but these will be permitted so long as they are overseen by “one or more amateur bodies“.  Amateur Contestants and Amateur Events are defined as follows:

“Amateur Contestant” means anyone who participates in a Combative Sport that
is governed by one or more amateur bodies and does not receive any money or
other gain from such participation;
 “Amateur Event” means a Combative Sports competition that is restricted to
Amateur Contestants and is governed by one or more amateur bodies;

You can find the Bylaw here –  fort mcmurray combative sports commission bylaw

Here is the video feed of the Commissions Deliberations and Vote

bc athletic commissioner colour logo

A further legal change in BC Combat Sports law is expected shortly as a result of Bill S-209 making amateur combat sports illegal in BC.  Similar legislative shifts are likely also in the works throughout other Canadian jurisdictions.  The BC Government confirms, through the BC Athletic Commissioner, that they are “actively working” on a legislative response to the amateur combat sports dillema.  If you are a stakeholder in the Combat Sports/MMA community now is the time to give your feedback to the Government to ensure they choose the most sensible path in addressing this issue.

Below is the latest information released through BC’s Athletic Commissioner.  I should point out that this press release seems to overlook another category of legal amateur combat sports and those are combat sports “on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee “.  These are expressly exempted from criminality due to section 83(2)(a) of the Criminal Code and don’t require Provincial permission unless “the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her requires it“.  These include sports such as boxing, wrestling, judo and taekwondo.

Changes to the Criminal Code of Canada affecting Combat Sports in BC
The Federal Government has approved Bill (S-209) to amend the Criminal Code of
Canada and this Bill has now received Royal Assent and is in effect as of June 19,
This amendment makes professional boxing and mixed martial arts contests legal in
Canada when they have the permission of an athletic board or commission. This
change has cleared the way for professional boxing and mixed martial arts contests to
commence in this province.
In addition, this Bill amends Section 83 of the Criminal Code to permit a “contest
between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a
province with the permission of the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any
other person or body specified by him or her”.
This means that amateur combat sport events in B.C. will only be permitted if approved
by the Province through one of two possible means:
 The Province can designate, with Cabinet approval, amateur combat sports
where events can take place without regulation and supervision from a
sanctioning body. No license will be required; or,
 The Province can designate, with Cabinet approval, amateur combat sports
where events can take place but only with regulation and supervision from a
sanctioning body designated by the Province. Licenses will be required. In such
cases Cabinet will also need to approve the unique sanctioning body for each
Until such designation is made, the changes in the Criminal Code of Canada make any
amateur combat sport contest outside of the law.
While decisions about which amateur sports will be designated in which category have
not been made, the Province is actively working on a response to this change in Federal
legislation and will make the results known as soon as possible.

jail cell image

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the now overhauled section 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code and the difficulties this creates for amateur MMA throughout Canada.

Appreciating that the default, absent Provincial intervention, is that Amateur MMA is illegal in Canada, can a promoter get around this exception by hosting an “exhibition” fight?

Probably not.   Section 83 contains a broadly worded prohibition.  While the law allows greater flexibility for amateur contests than for professional bouts there is no special leeway for “exhibitions“.  Here’s the breakdown of what you need to look at to find out if you’re running afoul of the law:

1. Are you dealing with” an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them“?   This is an expansive prohibition designed to catch basically any combat event.

If  your event is captured by this language the starting point is the event is illegal.  It makes no difference whether the “encounter or fight” is professional, amateur, exhibition or otherwise.  The starting point is it is illegal.   It also makes no difference what type of a combat sport you are dealing with, be it Karate, Boxing, MMA, etc., the initial analysis catches all such ‘encounters‘.   If you are caught under this broad language you then look at whether one of the four ways to avoid criminality apply.  These exceptions are as follows:

1.  Is the “encounter or fight” being held “with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board, commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the province’s legislature for the control of sport within the province.”  If so you are ok.

The real shortcoming with this exception, however, is that most Provincial commissions have no legislative authority to deal with amateur contests so these “encounters or fights” cannot presently be licensed.  Provinces are free to change this.  Section 83(2)(d) of the Criminal Code also limits the authority of such commissions to licence only “a boxing contest or mixed martial arts contest“.  There is a live issue about whether any non-amateur encounters outside of MMA and Boxing can be Provincially licensed.

2.  Is it an Amateur Contest?  If so there are three more outs from criminality.  These are:

a.   The sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee (MMA is not).

b.  The sport has been designated by the province’s lieutenant governor; or

c.  The event is held with the permission of the province’s lieutenant governor in council.

Presently there is no across the board exception for amateur contests.  The federal government has passed the buck to the Provinces.  Provinces will likely be filling in the gaps in the upcoming months (or choosing not to).  In the meantime, don’t get cute and try to avoid the criminal code by calling a fight an ‘exhibition‘.  This label will be of no assistance.

Criminal Code ImageWhen Bill S-209 first started making headlines last year it was clear that the wording of the legislation would leave a big legal gap which Provinces would be tasked with filling.

As Bill S-209 slowly plodded through the Senate and Parliament, Provinces across Canada did little in anticipation of the law passing.  Now S-209 is in force, and, as predicted, Amateur MMA is illegal in all Canadian Jurisdictions without a legislative framework in place addressing AMMA.

This is no longer an academic concern, events are now being directly affected.

Top MMA News reports that Unified MMA 16 which is scheduled to take place this week in Alberta has cancelled all amateur bouts on the card.  Cody Rempel of Top MMA News also reports that AFC 19, set to take place in July, has cancelled all amateur bouts.  This sudden change is certainly not unexpected.  More importantly, the timing of these cancellations is no coincidence as this is occurring exactly as Bill S-209 received Royal Assent.

Alberta is not alone.  BC is lacking a framework, as is Ontario and basically every Canadian Jurisdiction.  S-209 was not intended to make MMA illegal, on the contrary, it was intended to force Provinces to deal with the issue.  Provincial governments have been sitting on the fence and without pressure may continue to do so.    It is long past time to lobby local governments to pass the proper laws needed to give AMMA and other combat sports a clear and certain framework.

Bill S209 Royal Assent

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

OTTAWA, June 20, 2013 /CNW/ – The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), today issued the following statement welcoming Royal Assent of Bill S-209, which will bring changes to the Criminal Code to amend the definition of prize fight and expand the list of permitted sports under prize fighting provisions:

“I am very pleased to announce that An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights) has received Royal Assent.

“Sport has evolved and grown in importance in today’s society, and government policies, regulations, and legislation must evolve as well. Until now, the Criminal Code definition of prize fighting had not been updated since 1934, when boxing was the only combative sport considered.

“Today, many combative sports are included on the programs of both the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees and are governed by international federations that establish standardized rules for their sports. Other sports, such as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and other mixed martial arts, are growing in popularity and are being conducted under a governing set of rules for participants around the world.

“Our Government believes that authorized combative sports played under an accepted set of international rules should not be deemed to be explicitly illegal in Canada by the mere fact that they are combative sports.

“We are pleased that the amendments to the Criminal Code reflect the current reality of combative sports and provide provincial governments and sport bodies with a clear legal framework to effectively regulate combative sport in their jurisdictions.”

The Manitoba Combative Sports Commission has just released the official results and medical suspensions for UFC 161 .

Here they are in full:

UFC 161 official results – Manitoba

ontario image

So you want to run an amateur MMA event in Ontario and make sure you do so legally.  With S-209 coming into force you’re ready to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  What steps can you take?  The answer is none, there is currently no way to legally hold an AMMA event in Ontario.  Here’s the breakdown as to why –

As previously discussed, with S-209 in place all AMMA is illegal by default in Canada.  Provinces must designate the sport to make it lawful.   Ontario has no such framework.

Ontario has passed the Athletics Control Act which sets out a framework to regulate a “professional contest or exhibition“.  Interestingly,the Ontario Regulation passed pursuant to the ACA states that “Mixed martial arts are designated as a professional sport for the purpose of the definition of “professional contest or exhibition” in section 1 of the Act.”   This language appears to make all MMA events ‘professional‘ subject to Athletics Commissioner licencing but the Athletics Commissioner does not see it that way.  If you seek a licence from the AC for an amateur event you will be turned down.  Limits on the Athletic Commissioner’s jurisdiction has also been judicially canvassed confirming it does not extend to amateur events.

Given the AC’s position that they do not regulate AMMA you have to look at the amateur legislative framework.  This is where the landscape is barren.  There is no statute or regulation designating a list of permitted amateur combat sports in Ontario.

While it is true that the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS) “recognizes” Provincial Sport Organizations (PSO) which handle the day-to-day oversight of the various sports, such as Kickboxing Ontario, this is not done with a top-down framework in place to bring such a PSO sanctioned event in compliance with S-209.  The MTCS does not regulate AMMA.  There are no government approved licences for AMMA in Ontario.  There are no prescribed organizations with lawful authority to make an AMMA event legal.  Hosting an AMMA event with Kickboxing Ontario’s oversight is no more in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code than an event without their permission.  A PSO that is ‘recognized’ by the MTCS is basically in a position to receive MTCS funding . MTCS recognition does little more than this and does nothing to legalize an event.

So where does this leave a promoter?  Either you can host an event knowing it is illegal and hope a prosecution is not pursued or you can cease all activity.  The best course of action is to actively lobby the Ontario government to fix this legal gap and create a framework to allow the proper regulation of AMMA on a Province wide basis.  Keeping the status quo is not an option for any stakeholder in the Canadian MMA community.