Archive for the ‘Amateur MMA Law’ Category

Ontario Plans to Legalize ammy combat sports

Since last year I have been pressing Ontario for answers about if or when they will exercise their section 83 Criminal Code powers to legalize amateur MMA and other non-Olympic combat sports.

Ontario has finally provided a substantive reply and the Province advises that they plan on legalizing amateur MMA along with  many other combat sports. Specifically Steve Harlow of Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has advised that:

For the purposes of Section 83 of the Criminal Code, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport proposes that the following amateur combative sports be designated:

 

 

– boxing
– jiu jitsu
– judo
– karate
– kickboxing
– mixed martial arts
– taekwondo
– wrestling
– wushu

You can find a copy of Harlow’s full letter here which seeks feedback from all interested in the Combat Sports community:

Ontario Amateur Combat Sports Proposed Action

The Ministry is seeking stakeholder feedback until December 8 and the formal regulations are expected shortly thereafter.

I have it on good authority that Manitoba is close to exercising their rights under section 83 of the Criminal Code to legalize a variety of amateur combative sports.

Manitoba will apparently pass an Order in Council in the upcoming weeks.  The OIC will designate a variety of traditional amateur marital arts as legal.  These will initially  be limited to striking arts such as Karate.

The Government plans on handing the regulatory reigns to oversight of these sports to various Provincial Sports Organizations.

Amateur MMA and Kickboxing will apparently be excluded from the OIC (meaning they will remain illegal for the time being) as these sports lack a PSO in the Province.

The Province is apparently open minded to legalizing both amateur MMA and Kickboxing, however, they do not wish to be the regulator and the legalization of these sports will be put on hold until the community develops a recognized PSO for these sports which can gain the confidence of the Government.

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Update October 8, 2014 – Manitoba has now passed the anticipated OIC.  Details can be found here.

The Prestige Fight Club found themselves entangled in Canada’s criminal justice system after hosting an unsanctioned MMA event last year in Saskatchewan.

Following the event Criminal Charges were laid against two individuals involved for hosting an illegal prizefight contrary to section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code.  In response the individuals charged sued the Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Martial Arts Association, alleging that the SMAA was abusing its powers of oversight of amateur MMA in the Province.

In a press release issued today by Prestige, both the criminal and civil cases have reached a compromised end.  The Criminal charges ended by way of a conditional discharge (meaning a finding of guilt is made but no conviction is registered so long as the judicially imposed conditions are met.)   The conditions are reportedly to keep the peace for 90 days and further a charitable donation in lieu of a fine for several thousand dollars.  The Civil suit has apparently been dropped as well as part of the plea bargain reached with the Government.

It is also rumoured that the Province will strip the SMAA of their ability to oversee amateur MMA in the Saskatchewan.

The full press release reads as follows:

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Prestige Fight Club MMA is happy to announce that they have reached a deal with the Saskatchewan Government in regards to charges laid in conjunction with Prestige’s September 28th, 2013 event. Charges stemmed from a new law created with the passing of Bill 209. Prestige Fight Club and the Saskatchewan Government have agreed that a conditional discharge would be in the best interest of all parties involved, thus best thing for the advancement of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in the Province.
Presiding Judge Kovatch , states he felt at no time did Prestige intentionally or maliciously try to break the law.

“We feel this is a huge victory for Prestige and for MMA” says Cord Crowthers who, along with Derek Daku, is a founding partner in Prestige Fight Club MMA. Crowthers states, “We have always felt that, if outside observers were given a chance to examine the facts, common sense would prevail and it would be obvious that no malicious intent was meant and no laws were premeditatedly broken.”

The discharge opens up the door for all promotors to move forward on a level playing field, and sets the stage for Prestige to apply for their license to host Saskatchewan’s first all Professional MMA event.

“We want to bring the best possible talent to the fans of Saskatchewan” says Daku. “That means from fighters from Saskatchewan, other parts of Canada and from around the World.” Crowthers goes on to say, “The Prestige Brand will be one of the biggest stages in Canadian MMA, and is looking to give the fans more than they could ever expected from an MMA event here at home!”

The second part of the deal is to start fresh and Crowthers & Daku have taken the initiative in doing just that by agreeing to stay their law suit against the Saskatchewan Government and the Saskatchewan Mixed Martial Arts Association(SMAA). With the same intent the Saskatchewan Government has ask for Prestige’s input in regards to helping with policy , while forming the new Pro Commission regulations and structure. Crowthers stated that their lawsuit was set in motion because “…we had no other option and our backs were up against the wall with the way events unfolded. This discharge, from all charges, allows Prestige to focus on what’s important and we have full expectations the Government wants the same. The goal now is to bring the best possible product to a very savvy market here in our Province.”

If the rumours are true, in regards to time frames, Prestige Fight Club MMA is looking to host their first professional show by the fall. Crowthers and Daku plan to keep the City of Weyburn as the home of Prestige and to host the Inaugural Professional event at Crecent Point Place.

“The city has been behind us from day one and we plan to show them our gratitude in a big way,” states Crowthers.

Prestige Fight Club MMA has hinted that they will be looking at new markets in Saskatchewan in the near future, but when pressed on whether or not they will look outside the Province, Daku says, “only time will tell.”

 

This past weekend the Canadian Amateur Mixed Martial Arts National Championships (an event affiliated with the IMMAF) took place in Ontario and the Province, apparently aware of the well publicized event, appears content to look the other way instead of passing appropriate laws to allow such events to be hosted in compliance with the Criminal Code.   The promoter has now uploaded a number of the matches on YouTube:


Apparently Ontario is doing little more than “reviewing” the situation but seem slow in making any legal changes.

As previously discussed, there currently is no legal framework in place for amateur MMA events to take place in Ontario in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code.  I will repeat myself in stating that if the Government is looking the other way because they are now ok with amateur MMA they are going about it the wrong way.  There is no reason why amateur MMA can’t be legalized in Ontario and the Government can choose to follow either the BC Model, the Saskatchewan Model or carve their own path.  Until this is done those that participate in the sport are taking a gamble as to whether the authorities will seek to enforce the letter of the law.  If you are a stakeholder in the Ontario MMA Community you should contact Craig Stewart, Manager of Sport and Recreation, at 416-326-4370 and make your voice heard.

 

 

SMAA lawsuit screenshot

Following criminal charges being laid after hosting an amateur mixed martial arts event without SMAA approval, the Prestige Fight Club has now sued the Provincial Government and the SMAA.

I have obtained a copy of the pleadings which were filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan, Regina Registry on March 13, 2014.  Prestige alleges that the SMAA is abusing its powers of oversight of amateur MMA in the Province.  Specifically the lawsuit alleges that the SMAA has unlawfully restrained trade by doing as follows:

a.  Restricting the sanctioning of amateur mixed martial arts events to its own members, who are selected to the SMAA in an arbitrary and unfair manner.

b.  Denying the public at large, including non-SMAA members and the Plaintiffs, the means and ability to host amateur mixed martial arts events in a legal manner or at all.

c.  Denying the public at large, including non-SMAA members and the Plaintiffs, from continuing business activities in their chosen profession

The lawsuit further alleges that the Provincial Government was negligent in granting the SMAA regulatory power to oversee amateur MMA in the Province and further that it failed to properly oversee the SMAA’s use of power.

Prestige is not only seeking damages for “nullified business opportunities” but also aggravated damages, exemplary damages and further seeks to strip the SMAA of their regulatory powers arguing the SMAA made “false, inaccurate or misleading” representations to the Government in the process of obtaining their regulatory powers.

I should note that none of the allegations have been proven in Court and the Defendants are expected to file their reply to the lawsuit shortly.

Without weighing in on the merits of the lawsuit there is one point worth stressing for those who follow regulatory issues in Canadian MMA.  Even if all of the allegations are true these likely do not excuse hosting an MMA event without approval from the body designated by a Province to oversee such events .  In the event of wrongful denial of a licence to host an MMA event the proper course would be to challenge the regulatory bodies decision through judicial review.  Going ahead with an event without complying with the requirements of section 83 of the Criminal Code can give rise to prosecution and despite this lawsuit the Criminal charges following Prestige’s September 28 event remain before the Courts.

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Update – February 28, 2014 – the CNMMAF has now released the details of the format which, while may not be a good measure of who the best MMA competitors are, seems to take care in trying to avoid being labeled a ‘prize fight‘ under the Criminal Code.  Here are the details of the tryouts:

CNMMAF AMMA Try Outs Format

Please be advised of the guidelines for the Try Outs.

1) Host facility will select a panel of top assessment coaches from the following area’s.

  Strength and Conditioning Coaches

 Striking Coaches (Boxing/Muay Thai/MMA… etc)

 Grappling Coaches (wrestling/judo/jiu jitsu…etc)

* also a selection of judges, referees, officials (can assist in the screening and selection process, as they are extremely valuable)

This decision is up to the Host Group. Each group eg: Strength & Conditioning Coaches (will select a captain from their own group..this is up to the coaches in each group to elect one) The captain will instruct the coaches on the format of the conditioning exercises that will be scored.

This will consist of a minimum of 10 exercises that will test their over all conditioning and strength. We will forward examples of exercises (but I am fully confident that the Strength Coaches can come up with them) All exercise’s will be the same duration for everyone tested (depending on the number of participants…there might be numerous testing groups in one day)

Striking Coaches will do the same as above (select a captain). All participants will demonstrate their striking skills (pad holding, bag striking,shadow boxing, etc.) Coaches will have them demonstrate offensive and defensive maneuvers …. much like a testing for a belt in martial arts.

Grappling Coaches will do the same (select a captain) All participants will demonstrate their grappling skills (rolling with each other…as well as be tested by the coaches for their knowledge of techniques) the duration of rounds can be 3 or 5 minute rolls.

This procedure is not a complicated one (this is similar to what the UFC uses in it’s Ultimate Fighter Show) all that is required is a fair selection and equal testing criteria for everyone. Whatever techniques are selected, or exercises for the strength and conditioning ..they must be consistent.

Each competitor will have a scoring sheet that he/she will take with them to each testing station. there will be a scoring sheet (After each testing station is complete..the captain will take them all to the next scoring station) The competitors will not know their scores until the end.

There will also be a comment section where the coaches can comment. As a reminder due to the current legal issues with Amateur MMA

we must be in total agreement that this is not a fight..no head striking allowed what so ever. These are NOT pre-arranged matches!

As a special note to the selection committee. It is very likely that you will have a closed door meeting when it comes down to the final selection.It is also likely that you will have a call back at the end of the day to assess (undecided candidates)

2) Athletes

 Age Requirements must be acceptable.

 All participants must be able to legally enter the USA.

All participants must submit a brief resume (identifying their involvement in combative sports)

 All participants must be on time

All participants must demonstrate good sportsmanship (regardless of the out come) All participants must come with full equipment…gloves..shin guards…mouth pieces etc. just for extra safety precautions. (safety of the competitor is first)

All participants will sign a liability waiver.

> all participants must sign a media release form (video taping or media coverage)As a special note: It is the coaches responsibilities to leave the athletes with positive experience regarding their abilities and the areas that they need to improve on etc. (for they may be tomorrows champions)

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Further to my recent discussion of the Canadian National Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s planned ‘national championships’, the CNMMAF appears ready to test the boundaries of the Criminal Code in their efforts to field a Canadian AMMA team.  The road to the national championships will apparently seek to get around the section 83 prohibition of prize fights by hosting ‘tryouts‘ at various gyms and dojos.  The CNMMAF has recently updated their website with the following announcement:

The Canadian National MMA Federation has announced it will have a Nation wide Team Canada MMA Tryout , The team selections with be based upon results from the tryouts and recommendations from each participating Province.  Mr. Pellitier , The CNMMAF National Director is ensuring the criteria is fair for all provinces and that the selection process is non bias and include fair representation from all participating provinces and is within the legal guidelines of Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada

It is unclear exactly what the tryouts will entail other than sparring being a possibility and assertions that the competition will be fashioned similar to the tryouts held by Zuffa when screening candidates for TUF.   The official CNMMAF website only has this to say about the tryouts:

We will post all the information for the tryouts within the next week. And contact any the Athletes that have preregistered to update them.  Do not cut weight because if you are selected for the National team you will be required to weight in everyday.  Also , This is not a fight , We have to comply with section 83 of the criminal code , we have a evaluation process that will allow us to pick the athletes we feel will best represent CANADA at the world Championships. We ensure any athlete a fair and democratic process across the country , and a fair assessment to determine the best Athletes for Team Canada.

Will this strategy of implementing ‘tryouts’ instead of ‘fights’ work to get around the Criminal Code?  Only time will tell.

The Criminal Code captures non sanctioned amateur MMA competitions so long as they are “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“.    This is a very wide net and certainly can be applied to competitive amateur tryouts.  There is no magic in avoiding the Criminal Code by hosting an event in a gym/dojo, or by attaching the labels ‘tryouts’ or ‘sparring’ to a competition.  All that matters is whether the above technical language is met.  If yes a prosecution can follow.  It also does not matter if you call it a fight or not as the Criminal Code also prohibits “encounters” which are arguably a broader category

To my knowledge section 83 has never been used to go after legitimate training and sparring and arguably does not extend so far.  The pre arranged ‘encounter or fight‘ likely must go beyond training and instead have a competitive nature to it.  Tryouts which seek to determine who goes on to compete in ‘national championships’ certainly can be caught by the Code depending on what occurs in the tryouts.  Time will tell if this is an effective strategy to avoid the Criminal Code or if various Provincial authorities are prepared to clarify the shades of grey in section 83 with prosecutions following these events.

It was previously announced that an amateur MMA event was scheduled to take place in Ontario with the winners receiving a “free ride” to the CNMMAF national championships.  The CNMMAF has now announced an overhaul of this format stating that “Due to the legalities of the CNMMAF hosting a National Championships…we have voted upon with our Executive membership to hold a Team Canada Tryouts in the Months of February and March to give every Amateur MMA Athlete in all Canadian provinces the opportunity to compete to represent Canada as a part of Team Canada“.

The announcement goes on to site a number of Provincial ‘tryouts‘ with events reported to take place in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and PEI.

If the tryouts include actual fights there will continue to be ‘legalities’ that can get in the way.  Amateur MMA is not legal across all of Canada.  Some of the reported Provinces, namely Ontario, PEI and Manitoba, don’t yet have the proper laws in place to allow amateur MMA events to be hosted in compliance with the Criminal Code.   Interestingly a lot of the events are reported to take place in local Gyms.  It is worth noting that there is no “dojo / gym exception” in the Criminal Code.   All that is required to be caught by the language is for the event to be “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“.

If these pre-arranged ‘tryouts’ include fights the possibility of criminal prosecution remains a live threat.  While the road to growing amateur MMA in the country with a view to international participation is laudable, there are no shortcuts and the Criminal Code’s requirements must be kept in mind.

There are a few developments in Nova Scotia which are noteworthy and point to the need for legislative overhaul for both professional and amateur MMA.

On the amateur side, it is reported that a body called “The Nova Scotia Amateur Mixed Martial Association” will be designated as an authority to oversee amateur MMA in the Province.   The article seems to suggest that the body derives their authority from the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority.

If that is the case there is a problem.  As previously discussed, the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority does not have the authority to oversee amateur contests.   The Boxing Authority Act, the law that created and empowers the NSBA, specifically limits their authority to oversee “professional” contests.  The Nova Scotia government confirms the body was created solely to oversee professional contests.

If the NSBA can’t oversee amateur contests they certainly don’t have the authority to delegate this power to others.

Unless there is a law I am not aware of designating the NSAMMA as a body capable of overseeing amateur MMA in the Province in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code the legal landscape is problematic.  A quick search of Nova Scotia’s OIC’s fails to reveal such a designation.  If anyone is aware of such a law or OIC I would appreciate it being pointed out for me.

The issues don’t end on the amateur side.  It was recently announced that the UFC will host an event in Halifax on October 4.  While the NSBA can legally oversee such an event the current rules on the books are a far cry from the unified rules that the UFC operates under.   In fact Nova Scotia’s official regulations 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 wrestling.  So professional MMA is legal but the rules of actual boxing apply.

If amateur MMA is going to be legally hosted in Nova Scotia the Province needs to pass a law in compliance with Section 83 of the Criminal Code.  Further the Province needs to overhaul the official rules in place for MMA if there is to be any integrity to the NSBA’s oversight of such contests.

Criminal Code Image

Last September I highlighted an amateur MMA event which took place in Weyburn Saskatchewan without SMAA sanctioning.  (The SMAA is the body designated by Order in Council 479/2013 with the power to sanction and oversee amateur combat sports in Saskatchewan in compliance with the Criminal Code).

In a move that should come as no surprise to those that participated in the event it is reported that charges have now been laid.   Marlo Pritchard of the Weyburn Police Service provided the following media release:

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Charges laid in MMA event Investigation

On September 28th  2013, a mixed martial arts event, promoted by Prestige Fight Club, was held in Weyburn. Allegations at the time was that the event was non sanctioned and as a result a police investigation was commenced.

This investigation was as a result of changes to the Criminal Code which came into effect in June 2013. The changes to the Criminal code require events such as a Mixed Martial Arts contest to receive sanctioning under the authority of a provincially authorized athletic board or commission.

The investigation and prosecutorial review have  been completed and as a result charges of ‘Engaging in a Prize Fight’, contrary to Section 83(1) of the Criminal Code have been laid against the owner and a promoter of Prestige Fight Club.

A 48 year old male from Beinfait, Saskatchewan, and a 45 year old male from Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan have been issued a Summons to appear for Court on Tuesday March 11th at 10am in the Weyburn Court House.

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It is unfortunate it had to come to this, however, these charges serve as a teachable moment that unless events are held in jurisdictions with the proper legal framework required by the Criminal Code, prosecutions for illegal ‘prize fights’ are now a reality in a post Bill S-209 world.

Many jurisdictions in Canada lack this framework.  The upcoming Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Championship Series #3   in Ontario is another event which may face a similar fate.  Anyone considering participating in this event would be wise to contact the Provincial government for assurances that prosecutions will not follow.  It is unlikely the Province would provide such an assurance.

While there is much work to be done before a proper framework for Amateur MMA exists throughout Canada, the solution is not to host unsanctioned events.  Stakeholders are better served lobbying their Provinces to pass appropriate laws.  Until that time participating in events in Provinces lacking a legal framework risk colliding with the Criminal Code.

bc athletic commissioner colour logo

Amateur MMA is government regulated in BC and events cannot be held without oversight from the BC Athletic Commissioner.  Given this framework is there a place for a Provincial Sport Organization to help foster and grow AMMA?  The BC Athletic Commissioner thinks so.  I reached out to Dave Maedel and here are his views on this topic:

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Hi Erik.

The Office of the BC Athletic Commissioner believes the establishment of a Provincial Sports Organization for MMA in BC would be beneficial.

Provincial Sport Organizations provide a structure for coach and officials development; ensure rules and regulations are aligned with the recognized national sport organization; and provide members with consistent policies relating to codes of conduct, volunteer and employee screening, dispute resolution etc.  all which benefit and improve the safety of participants.

Dave Maedel

BC Athletic Commissioner

Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

Victoria, BC  

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Presently there is no Government recognized National Sporting Organization for MMA in Canada and if one is ever going to adopted then PSO’s must develop first.   You can’t put the cart before the horse.  Since an NSO for MMA will not be formed until the sport is “established in a minimum of eight Provinces” work on the grass roots level is key.  Having the Athletic Commissioner’s support is a great starting point.