As previously discussed, amateur Boxing, Judo, Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do are presently legal in BC however there is concern that the government is about to get involved in regulating these previously self regulated combat sports due to the powers given to the Provinces by the new section 83 of the Criminal Code.
Andrew Schuck, the former President of Boxing BC, has raised concerns that the Government is going to create legislation which will change the landscape of these sports from self regulating to Provincially regulated sports. He has shared his submissions to the BC Government with me and I reproduce these in part below. Whether you share Andrew’s views or not, if you are stakeholder in amateur combat sports in BC now is the the time to let your views be known to the Government to influence any legislative changes which are contemplated. Here are Andrew’s submissions:
REGULATION OF AMATEUR SPORT – A NECESSITY?
This submission deals with the concern that the British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is about to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that amateur sport in the Province, including amateur boxing, wrestling, judo and taekwando, be regulated. Specifically, many members of the amateur boxing community are fearful that they will be unable to participate in their sport unless they first seek and obtain permission from the Lieutenant Governor in Council or a person or body specified by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to grant such permission. This regulator could be a civil servant, a government commission or a sporting body which, in the case of the latter, would result in the establishment of a sport monopoly.
This submission sets forth opposition to such a policy and is based on three premises:
Traditionally, British Columbia has not regulated amateur sports preferring to leave it to private associations to govern themselves.
In a democracy government intrusion into the lives of its citizens or their activities is only justified when necessary to serve an important societal interest. Otherwise, British Columbia citizens should be free to pursue their interest in amateur athletics free from government interference or regulation.
Freedom of choice is the bedrock upon which our democracy has been built and it should not be curtailed unless absolutely necessary. Government established monopolies in any field of endeavor should be viewed with suspicion as limiting a citizen’s freedom of choice. This is as true in amateur sport as in any other area of activity. British Columbians should be able to participate in competing amateur sporting associations free from the compulsion of government appointed monopolies. To do otherwise is to restrict the citizen in his or her association with their fellow citizens.
The suggestion that British Columbia should abandon its traditional policy of non regulation of amateur sport including amateur boxing has arisen because of recent changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. In turn, these Criminal Code changes have arisen because of the increased popularity of certain non traditional combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Kickboxing.
For decades “prize fighting,” (defined as an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons) had been outlawed in Canada. However, a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen wearing gloves of a certain size was deemed not to be a prize fight.
The Criminal Code also dealt with professional boxing by extending the exemption to or “any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province.”
The old section of the Criminal Code:
83. (1) Everyone who
(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.
As MMA and Kickboxing were introduced into Canada it became obvious that the old definition of a “prize fight” would have to be changed if those participating in the sport were to avoid criminal prosecution. It was to accommodate MMA and Kickboxing that the Criminal Code was changed with section 83(2) being replaced.
The new subsection defines “prize fight” as follows:
(2) In this section, “prize fight” means 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, but does not include
(a) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee and, in the case where the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her requires it, the contest is held with their permission;
(b) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport has been designated by the province’s lieutenant governor in council or by any other person or body specified by him or her and, in the case where the lieutenant governor in council or other specified person or body requires it, the contest is held with their permission;
(c) 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; and
(d) a boxing contest or mixed martial arts contest held in a province 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.
This amendment changes the definition of “prize fight” to include an encounter or fight with feet in addition to fists or hands so as include MMA and Kickboxing. However, it does not include a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport if the sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee and in the case where the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her requires it, the contest is held with their permission. Non IOC combative sports are exempt from the prohibition against prize fighting only if they are designated or permitted by a provincial Cabinet and permission has been obtained for a contest. British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor in Council has not stipulated, by an Order in Council or otherwise, that any amateur sporting event needs its permission. It has not specified that the permission of any other body is required.
TRADITIONAL AMATEUR SPORTS
Amateur boxing, and certain other combat sports such as wrestling, judo and taekwondo are included in the Olympics and, as British Columbia does not yet require an IOC sport to seek its permission, these sports are perfectly legal and comply with the amended S. 83(2) of the Criminal code. At present their athletes require no permission from any government or governmental appointed body to participate in amateur contests. The province is not obliged to take any action in regard to these IOC sports and can simply allow the status quo to continue. There is no compelling reason to do otherwise. None of these sports gave rise to the concerns which led to the federal amendments.
However, amateur MMA and Kickboxing are not part of the IOC program and are caught by the Criminal Code amendment. MMA and Kickboxing are not and will not be legal until British Columbia passes an Order in Council designating these amateur sports and they obtain permission to engage in contests from the cabinet or some person or body authorized by it to grant this permission. Accordingly the Province could so designate MMA making the sport legal and requiring it to seek permission for its contests. The danger is that the Province could so designate amateur boxing subjecting it to government control when none is needed.
The Criminal Code Amendments were created to deal with non traditional sports such as amateur MMA and Kickboxing. Other amateur sports such as boxing, judo, wrestling and taekwondo are participants in the IOC programme, were not the object of the Amendments and are perfectly legal. British Columbia can and should leave these sports to govern themselves.
Regulation of amateur sport, save for MMA and Kickboxing either directly or through an appointed agency is unnecessary and serves no social need. Other traditional amateur sports in the Province including hockey, swimming, football, hockey and fencing remain self-governing. Amateur boxing and other OIC sports should remain self-governing as well. Nothing in the recent amendment to the Criminal Code requires a change.
There are good grounds to believe that the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development will recommend to the B.C. Cabinet a change in British Columbia’s traditional policy of non interference in amateur sport. The Ministry will invite the Cabinet to require that all amateur combat sport, regardless of whether it is part of the OIC programme, to obtain the permission of the Cabinet or a person or body specified by the Cabinet before it can hold an amateur contest. This will apply to the traditional OIC sports of boxing, wrestling, judo and taekwondo.
We have been advised by the ADM of Sport that the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development will recommend to the Cabinet that it pass an Order in Council that existing Provincial Sports Organizations (PSO’s) be specified as the body from whom permission must be obtained before an amateur combat contest can be held. If this recommendation is adopted, the effect will be to establish a monopoly in those traditional self-governing sports. While PSO’s are common for funding purposes they do not control or regulate an entire sport in the province. Soccer BC exists but it does not control soccer be3yond its own members so people in a neighbourhood can organize their own soccer team and play against another team without any involvement of the PSO. This is true of all amateur sports in BC. Government appointed monopolies will be bad for all amateur sport and serve no societal need. This fanciful concept has arisen from the minds of a few civil servants in the Ministry of Sport with no request from either the Federal Government or the amateur sporting community.
In British Columbia there are two amateur boxing associations – Boxing BC and Combsport. The existing PSO is Boxing B.C. The two organizations are both incorporated not for profit societies, have their own boards of directors, follow the rules of Boxing Canada and put on their own shows. They exist side by side which allows athletes, coaches and officials the choice of which organization to which they want to belong. Nothing in the recent Criminal Code amendment requires a change.
Not only is the creation of a monopoly offensive as restricting a citizen’s right to free association but it can lead to incongruous results. Combsport has more members than Boxing BC, more trained and qualified referees and officials, more clubs, more boxers, more coaches and puts on each year more contests. Combsport neither asks for nor receives any money from the BC Government or the tax payer. Combsport was formed because many members of Boxing B.C., official, coaches and athletes, were dissatisfied with the manner in which the PSO operated. Should British Columbia now adopt a policy which will leave these dedicated sports people with no alternative but to give up their sport or return to the organization which they, for their own reasons, left? Such a result cannot be then intention.
The existence of two amateur boxing organizations can only benefit the sport. Different organizations will have different approaches broadening the choices available to those who wish to participate in boxing and from which athletes, coaches and officials will benefit. Such diversity will produce innovation an example of which is the East Side Boxing Club. This club has adopted an approach unique to Canada.
Its purpose is to establish and operate a boxing club and social services center to train and work with deprived children and youth, particularly urban aboriginal youth and with women who have been the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. As the Club states, “Our objective is not to produce competitive boxers but to help these young people become confident, law abiding, productive citizens. Our coaches review the school report cards of children and youth, meet with their parents and if necessary bring in counselors. We will provide private office space at the gym for study. First, they study and then they box. In addition to teaching boxing skills our coaches emphasize civic values and a sense of community. Boxing is simply a tool to achieve a much broader objective.” The East Side Boxing Club determined that it could best achieve its objectives through Combsport. Another club might find it can achieve its very different objectives through Boxing BC. The entire sport benefits by having freedom of choice.
Lastly, before such a policy recommendation is made into law there should be extensive consultation with the stakeholders. This has not happened.
Andrew P. Schuck
Former President of Boxing B.C., coach and a boxing aficionado.