A Legal Breakdown of MMA In Nova Scotia (And Why Sword Fighting Is Boxing in NS!)

nova scotia mma law

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.

Today I address the legality of MMA, both professional and amateur, in Nova Scotia.

As readers of this blog know, 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 legislature for the control of sport withing the province“.

So what do we have in Nova Scotia?  MMA there, as it presently stands, derives it legal standing under the Boxing Authority Act.  This law created the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority that was tasked to “supervise and regulate boxing in the Province“.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Boxing is defined as “professional boxing contests or exhibitions, including such entertainment involving the use of fists as is determined to be boxing by the Authority, but does not include amateur boxing unless the context so requires

So, if the sport has “the use of fists” and is determined to be boxing by the NSBA then it is boxing.  The NSBA gets authority under Section 10(L) of the Act to “make regulations determining which entertainment or type of entertainment involving the use of fists is boxing

Digging into the Regulations, the NSBA has adopted “combat sports” as boxing and provided the following definition of what a combat sport is:

(2) In these regulations, “combat sport” means a sport involving full body contact between contestants in which a contestant uses a fist, whether open or closed, or a weapon held in a fist, and includes but is not limited to the following martial arts:

(a) kickboxing;

(b) shootfighting;

(c) karate;

(d) tae kwon do;

(e) jujitsu.

Interestingly,while individual martial arts are mentioned MMA is not.  This can be a problem but the argument would be that the list is non-exhaustive and MMA clearly is “a sport involving full body contact between contestants in which a contestant uses a fist“.  That said, there is no reason why MMA should not be specifically designated.

Perhaps most noteworthy, a fight with ‘a weapon held in a fist” is considered boxing in Nova Scotia and apparently legal under the legislation, who knew?

Another problem here is the regulations go on to set out the Rules for legal boxing.  While MMA can technically be considered boxing under Nova Scotia law, all of the regualations addressing the rules of the sport speak to pure boxing such as requirements that the bout take place in a ring with ropes, at least 8 oz gloves are used, counts for downed boxers, fouls such as using knees, holding an opponent and weresling.  So MMA is legal but the rules of actual boxing apply.

Moving on from these problems, and accepting that MMA is a combat sport (despite the lack of regulated rules) we get to the next hurdle.

The distinction between professional versus amateur becomes important.  The Boxing Authority Act authorizes the Commission to regulate “professional boxing contests or exhibitions…but does not included amateur boxing unless the context so requires“.

This means the NSBA clearly has the authority to regulate professional combat sports.  Section 15 of the Act goes on to allow the NSBA to make regulations relating to amateur boxing.  The only section of the regulations dealing with amateur boxing deal with pro-am cards requiring such bouts to be conducted under the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association.  Since CABA does not regulate MMA Amateur MMA is apparently legally out of bounds in Nova Scotia.

So in short, Pro MMA appears to be legal but  the rules of boxing apply, AMMA is not legal but swordfighting and other professional fights with “a weapon held in a fist” seem ok.  Duel anyone?


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