Muay Thai and Some Absurdities With Canada’s Prizefighting Law

Section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits ‘prize fights’ as a default position and sets out ways in which Provinces can legalize various amateur and professional combat sports.

While section 83’s recent amendments were generally a positive development as they paved the way for legal MMA in Canada, the section is poorly drafted and led to a variety of ambiguities such as whether professional kickboxing can be legalized in Canada.

I recently had to consider whether Provinces can legalize amateur Muay Thai contests.  For those unfamiliar with the sport, Muay Thai is a kickboxing sport which also allows the use of elbows and knees.

The reason why the question arose is s. 83 of the Criminal Code defines ‘prize fight’ as “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“. Notably missing from the section are the words ‘elbows’ and ‘knees’.

So can a Province legalize an amateur Muay Thai contest given this omission?  The answer is  yes.   Some Provinces, such as BC, already have.  Sections 83(2)(a)(b) and (c) discuss how Provinces can legalize amateur prize fights.  There is nothing in these sections limiting a sport using elbows or knees.  These sections are simply triggered if the sport in question uses “fists, hands or feet.”.   If so, the sport in question must comply with the Criminal Code.

If anything, the exclusion of the words ‘elbows’ and ‘knees’ means if two people get together and decide to have a fight exclusively using elbow and knee strikes, that would not, be definition, be a prize fight under this section!

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