When it comes to “Professional” combat sports, Section 83 of the Criminal Code makes them all illegal except 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.”
When the Criminal Code was amended earlier this year by Bill S-209, Pat Reid, the Executive Director of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission, voiced concern that the revision is too restricted and would not allow local athletic commissions to sanction other professional contests such as Kickboxing and Muay Thai. Some thought Reid’s interpretation was off base however the BC Government has just confirmed that they share this restrictive interpretation of the Criminal Code.
In a presentation which aired yesterday, Assistant Deputy Minister David Galbraith confirmed the BC Government’s view that “based on legal counsel’s advice there is not going to be an expansion of professional (combat sports) beyond those two sports (boxing and MMA)“. When asked specifically if there is a time-frame for the inclusion, at the pro level, of remaining combative sports which are currently not regulated Galbraith replied “based on legal counsel’s advice here in BC and the Provinces interpretation of the Criminal Code….the two sports we can regulate here in BC are boxing and mixed martial arts on a professional basis and until there is a change to that, that will be how and what the Province will be regulating.”
This is certainly bad news for anyone hoping to bring in any professional combat sports besides boxing and MMA into BC’s borders. In practical terms this means that unless the Criminal Code is further amended or unless a Court interprets section 83 of the Criminal Code in a broader way than the BC Government has done all professional combat sports outside of boxing and MMA will remain illegal in BC. Worse yet, if BC’s interpretation of section 83 is shared by other Provinces then professional Muay Thai and Kickboxing could be illegal across all of Canada.
Given the Herculean effort it took for Bill S-209 to pass there is no realistic possibility of a further amendment to the Criminal Code any time soon. The only practical hope of changing this reality is for a Court to interpret the Provinces abilities to regulate MMA to include all of the component martial arts that make up the sport. This is certainly a possibility but only time will tell whether a court is prepared to do so.