Why Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Remain Illegal in Ontario

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Amateur MMA Law, Athletics Commissioner of Ontario, Uncategorized

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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.

  1. […] previously highlighted issues on the amateur side in British Columbia, Calgary and Ontario.  The latest fallout on the amateur side comes from the City of Grande Prairie. […]

  2. […] The UFC is making its hat-trick appearance in Ontario this week.  Despite having the sports biggest organization doing repeat business in the Province amateur MMA still remains technically illegal in Ontario.  You can click here to read my previous article explaining why this is so. […]

  3. […] the Government acts it is worth noting that not only is amateur MMA is technically illegal in Ontario but so are many other traditional martial arts such as Karate and Jiu Jitsu.   If you are […]

  4. […] Why Amateur MMA is Illegal in Ontario […]

  5. […] in Council overturning this ban and setting out how events can be legally hosted.  As of today Ontario still has not passed such a law.  Absent such a law the only way an AMMA event can comply with the Criminal Code is if it is held […]

  6. […] As previously discussed, there currently is no legal framework in place for amateur MMA events to take place in Ontario in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code.  I will repeat myself in stating that if the Government is looking the other way because they are now ok with amateur MMA they are going about it the wrong way.  There is no reason why amateur MMA can’t be legalized in Ontario and the Government can choose to follow either the BC Model, the Saskatchewan Model or carve their own path.  Until this is done those that participate in the sport are taking a gamble as to whether the authorities will seek to enforce the letter of the law.  If you are a stakeholder in the Ontario MMA Community you should contact Craig Stewart, Manager of Sport and Recreation, at 416-326-4370 and make your voice heard. […]

  7. […] Ontario is filled with problems such as the government turning a blind eye to amateur MMA which is illegal in the Province.  Perhaps no bigger issue exists, however, that the Government’s complete failure to address […]

  8. […] The Province of Ontario has been one of the slowest in Canada to respond to their Criminal Code powers to legalize amateur mixed martial arts and other combat sport.  As previously discussed, Ontario’s response to date has been silence making amateur MMA along with a host of other combative sports technically illegal in the Province. […]

  9. […] Like Ontario, Quebec recognizes various Provincial Sport Organizations including some involved in combative sports.  A PSO that is ‘recognized’ by the Government is basically in a position to receive public funding. Recognition does little more than this and does not meet the clear requirements for legalization set out in the Criminal Code. […]

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