Nova Scotia Overhauling Combat Sports Legal Landscape

Update October 4, 2017 -This week Bill 12 passed second reading.  Below is the Hansard transcript of the government debate of the bill whereby the current legal problems with Nova Scotia combat sports regulation are acknowledged

Bill No. 12 – Boxing Authority Act.

MR. SPEAKER « » : The honourable Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

HON. LEO GLAVINE « » : Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 12 be now read for a second time.

On September 28th, I introduced in the House of Assembly Bill No. 12, an Act to Provide for the Establishment of a Combat Sports Authority for Nova Scotia. While it is more of a housekeeping measure to bring the Act in line with what we have already been practising here in the province, it is significant because the amendments align with changes to Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

[Page 653]

Mr. Speaker, in June 2013 the Criminal Code dealing with the prohibition on prize fights was amended to reflect the emergence and popularity of mixed martial arts, or as it is widely known, MMA. Prior to 2013, boxing was the only prize fighting exempted under the Criminal Code.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments will also make it clear that the new Combat Sports Authority governs professional boxing and any other professional combat sport that are designated by the regulations. The authority’s role in amateur combat sports will be specified by Order in Council rather than legislation and regulations, and will specify whether the authority or a provincial sport organization has authority of each approved amateur combat sport.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendments that have been introduced were developed in consultation with the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority and reflect the recommendations from the federal, provincial, territorial working group on safety in combat sport. Their work is designed to ensure increased safety for our athletes and provide consistency with approaches across the country.

Mr. Speaker, the terminology and definitions used within the legislation mirror what is now being used by athletic commissions in Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba. Our approach to managing amateur sport is consistent with practices in New Brunswick, P.E.I., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia. The changes being introduced will broaden the scope of the new Act to reflect today’s changes in combative sport and align with Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

With those remarks, I take my place, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to comments from the Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER « » : The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. LARRY HARRISON « » : This is an important bill for a number of reasons. I know it has been the goal for both the sport industry and the athletes to come under one umbrella and be part of this authority. There’s only one concern in this bill, not directly related to the legislation that is before us. We know the high potential for concussion and traumatic brain injuries that can occur in this sport. These injuries can certainly change a person’s life and, as a province, we must expand what we do for those who are impacted, to properly address and attend to and also help those who are impacted by these injuries.

The brain surgery strategy was first announced years ago. The task force of experts they assembled put together a report. I don’t think the public has seen that report yet. I’m not sure where that is, but while this area of sport is highly vulnerable to the traumatic brain injuries, this is not the only sport. There are so many other sports; hockey and football have a great deal of these brain injuries. These athletes are incredibly professional. There’s no getting around that, but accidents can happen and things will go wrong. Now, the Boxing Authority of course is responsible for ensuring professionalism in this sport. The government is responsible for ensuring health service to make sure that’s available for all who require it.

[Page 654]

We look forward to hearing feedback from all the Nova Scotians about the bill and we will take their opinions very seriously as the bill continues forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER « » : The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. BRENDAN MAGUIRE « » : I just want to take a moment to speak on this bill. I was going to filibuster Leo’s bill. Oh, the minister’s – I’m sorry.

MR. SPEAKER « » : Order, please. I’d like to remind the honourable member not to refer to other members by their first name.

MR. MAGUIRE « » : I do want to speak on a few things and one of the points that was just brought up from the member opposite was about concussions and in particular CTE, which seems to be impacting a lot of amateur and professional athletes. When it comes down to MMA, actually they’re less likely to have a concussion or to be impacted by CTE because a lot of the combat events end in submission and, unlike boxing, it’s usually stopped before there is a KO or substantial damage.

I just want to also take a moment to recognize the history as someone who is a huge combat sport fan, in particular, boxing, and I had a lot of great conversations with one of the former members, Gordie Gosse, for the few years that he was here with me, around boxing and the great history that we have here in Nova Scotia.

There are a few individuals, if we’re going to look at the history of boxing, that I think we should recognize including our former Sergeant-at-Arms who was a very accomplished boxer himself, but George Dixon in particular who was born in 1870 in Africville. He was actually the first Black boxer to ever fight for a world title, and I don’t think a lot of people know that. We all see the George Dixon statue but the historical importance of George Dixon is pretty incredible.

Sam Langford, my colleague recognized Sam Langford who was born in 1884. He stood five foot six and weighed 160 pounds, and if you want to talk about punching above your weight, Sam fought over 256 fights in his career and he fought from lightweight to heavyweight. One month, he’d fight a lightweight; the next month, he’d fight a heavyweight – and he actually won a lot of those fights so it shows you the great talent that has come out of here.

One of my all-time favourites and one of the nicest individuals you’ll ever meet is Ricky Anderson. Ricky, unfortunately, had a bad knee injury that he sustained during jogging and training. Ricky was notorious for overtraining and working hard and he happened to hurt his knee and he never actually recovered from that.

[Page 655]

Buddy Daye, whom I actually didn’t know – Buddy Daye was a boxer who had a 13-year career with 88 fights. And, of course, there are a few that the minister wanted me to point out, but of course the Downey family and I think back to the 1988 Olympics when David Downey’s son and David, himself, was a very accomplished boxer, but Ray Downey won the silver medal in the 1988 Olympics – and actually the 1988 Olympics was stacked with talent, amateur fighters who went on to be world champions. And I can still remember the day that Ray Downey came back with that silver medal and I think it was a moment that all Nova Scotians were proud of.

The member from Cole Harbour actually said to me that I had to mention Clyde Gray. Clyde Gray was 69 and 10, and one of the only Nova Scotia fighters to ever fight multiple times for a world title. And, actually, one of the things – and I mean, like I said, I have a lot of boxing books and I have followed the sport for a long time and I didn’t realize that Clyde Gray actually fought Tommy Hearns, a young Tommy Hearns, so that’s pretty special, and I do remember hearing and seeing old footage of the Clyde Gray-Chris Clarke fights, the trilogy back in the day, here at the Halifax Forum and the Metro Centre, which would be packed with people. And the city would be pumping out excitement when those two fought.

[9:00 p.m.]

Trevor Berbick, Lennox Lewis is another one who used to fight out of Halifax as an amateur. We talked about silver medalist – well, there was David Defiagbon. We have had a lot world class fighters and world class trainers like Wayne and Taylor Gordon from the old Bloomfield on North Street. Gary Johnson who is Kirk Johnson’s father, who is still out over there in Dartmouth and he still trains to this day; Tom McCluskey, Rick MacDonald, Mickey MacDonald’s brother.

We have deep history and tradition of boxing and, hopefully, that will carry forward MMA, and it was quite a sight in the 1970s and 1980s. The city would be packed with people coming here to Halifax. It really was a mecca for combat sports. We should be proud of all our past and future champions.

We have right now on the world stage, we have Tyson Cave and Custio Clayton. On the MMA side we have Chris Kelades. I actually saw his fight here in Halifax where he fought for the UFC. He was a sub for the UFC and he went on to win his first fight and Chris has gone on to have a very successful career in MMA. And of course, TJ Grant who was a trend setter before he actually – the member talked about concussions. TJ Grant’s career was short because of concussions and TJ was a fantastic talent who was actually supposed to go on to fight for the lightweight title in the UFC. He was also from Cole Harbour. It is not just Sidney Cosby and Nathan MacKinnon – there is also TJ Grant.

[Page 656]

I want to thank the minister for bringing this bill forward. As someone who has been a big fan of this sport and who actually played around in some of the gyms in Halifax, was never good but always loved the sport. I appreciate how technical it is. People just think it’s two individuals in a cage or two individuals in a ring trying to hurt each other. It really is very technical.

Lastly, I heard a rumour that Mickey MacDonald, Rick’s brother Mickey, who most people in this room know, may be one of the people sitting on the new board; so I know that we are in great hands with Mickey, even though those are the same hands that caught the prime minister with a pretty hard right hook, that made the front of the papers.

I think that we are in really good hands with Mickey and the whole gang. Thank you, once again, for bringing this forward and I hope that this revitalizes MMA sports here in Halifax.

MR. SPEAKER « » : If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

HON. LEO GLAVINE « » : I move second reading of Bill No. 12, on to amendments for the Boxing Authority Act.

MR SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 12. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN « » : Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 10.


For years the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority turned a blind eye to the Province’s actual legislation and regulations to allow MMA bouts to take place.  In short the official rules in the Province only allowed boxing rules to be used but these were routinely ignored to allow other combative sports.

Among the noted absurdities were

Calling sword-fighing a form of boxing.

Allowing fighters to win by groin shot

Ignoring fighter pay protections

Ignoring their actual rules for the sake of big promoters

The government’s neglect culminated in the Province being “not in good standing/not active” with the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports earlier this year.

The Province, at long last, appears to be taking the necessary steps to remedy this situation.

Legislation has been introduced seeking to overhaul the Boxing Authority Act.

Bill 12, which received 1st reading in the Legislature on September 28, 2017, looks to change the Boxing Authority to the “Combat Sports Authority”.

According to Nova Scotia’s legislative website the Bill still has a ways to go before coming into law but the athletic commission is already doing business under the new name.

Bill 12 Progress

They have also published the following rulesets for the combative sports they regulate.

Nova Scotia Boxing Rules

Amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai Rules

Pro Kickboxing and Muay Thai Rules

Amateur MMA Rules

Pro MMA Rules

I will update this article once I can confirm if Bill 12 has passed into law and if the above rules have been formed into proper regulations.


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