Archive for the ‘Federal MMA Law’ Category

Bill S209 Royal Assent

Bill S-209, which overhauled the Criminal Code to allow Provinces to give MMA a legal framework in Canada has now received Royal Assent.  This makes the new law now in force.  MP Bal Gosal issued the following comments:

OTTAWA, June 20, 2013 /CNW/ – The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), today issued the following statement welcoming Royal Assent of Bill S-209, which will bring changes to the Criminal Code to amend the definition of prize fight and expand the list of permitted sports under prize fighting provisions:

“I am very pleased to announce that An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights) has received Royal Assent.

“Sport has evolved and grown in importance in today’s society, and government policies, regulations, and legislation must evolve as well. Until now, the Criminal Code definition of prize fighting had not been updated since 1934, when boxing was the only combative sport considered.

“Today, many combative sports are included on the programs of both the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees and are governed by international federations that establish standardized rules for their sports. Other sports, such as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and other mixed martial arts, are growing in popularity and are being conducted under a governing set of rules for participants around the world.

“Our Government believes that authorized combative sports played under an accepted set of international rules should not be deemed to be explicitly illegal in Canada by the mere fact that they are combative sports.

“We are pleased that the amendments to the Criminal Code reflect the current reality of combative sports and provide provincial governments and sport bodies with a clear legal framework to effectively regulate combative sport in their jurisdictions.”

bill s 209 progress update

There was much celebration in the Canadian MMA Community yesterday with the passing of Bill S-209.  Now that MMA has a legal framework in Canada it is time for stakeholders to get to work with Provincial politicians.

As discussed yesterday, Bill S-209 does not in and of itself make MMA legal across Canada, it allows Provinces to make it legal on a Province by Province basis.  The default is the sport remains illegal.  It requires Provincial regulation.  This needs to happen for both professional and amateur contests.  The landscape on the professional side is largely in place.  The amateur side, however, remains a real problem.

For Provinces such as Ontario, BC, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia the work is largely done on the Professional side.  Quebec and any other Provinces that tried to dance around the old language of s. 83 could use some legislative overhaul to get rid of “mixed boxing” and embrace the actual sport of MMA.  Provinces that regulate the sport on the municipal side such as Alberta and New Brunswick ought to consider province wide commissions to bring in consistency in regulation.

Other Provinces, such as Saskatchewan, can now feel safe in passing legislation to regulate professional MMA.

Professional contests are well and good, but few practitioners make it to the bright lights of the big show.  Most MMA is amateur and this is where participants start.  This is also where the most pressing problem lies.

Will Bill S-209 in place there is no more uncertainty about the legal status of amateur MMA.  It can no longer said to be ‘illegal but tolerated’.  Unless the sport is put  “on the programme of the International Olympic Committee” every amateur contest will remain illegal unless Provinces specifically pass laws that permit or designate the legality of amateur MMA.  This framework is largely lacking.

I have written to BC’s minister of sport Bill Bennett who has agreed to discuss this with me.  I am following up with him and keep this site updated with any progress.  I urge other fans and stakeholders of MMA to contact your appropriate Provincial politicians to see that proper legislative frameworks are being put into place.

photo s209

Canadians have embraced Mixed Martial Arts since the Sport’s inception.  Despite this MMA has always been illegal in Canada.  The long road to legalization is nearing an end with Bill S-209 now passing Third Reading in Parliament with a vote of 267-9 allowing for a legal framework for both professional and amateur MMA along with other combat sports.

What does Bill S-209 do?

Section 83 of the Criminal Code makes prize fighting illegal except in limited circumstances.  Since 1934 the exceptions were limited to “boxing”.  Bill S-209 has expanded the circumstances for legal prizefights to include MMA and other sports.

The default is that Prize fights will remain illegal in Canada.  Bill S-209 permits Provinces to regulate Professional MMA in addition to boxing.  This clears the way for Provinces to have the power to create Athletic Commissions to regulate and sanction professional MMA Bouts.  This will give Provincial posts such as the Athletic Commissioner of Ontario and the BC Athletic Commissioner actual authority to use their powers to sanction legal MMA.  This will also remove the need for Provinces such as Quebec to invent sports such as “mixed boxing” to get around the old Criminal Code prohibition.  Lastly, it will hopefully provide motivation for Provinces that have been too gun-shy to regulate MMA to date to create athletic commissions and bring the sport above ground.

What About Combat Sports Other than MMA?

One of the shortcomings of Bill S-209’s language is that it limits Provincial authority to sanction professional “boxing contests or mixed martial arts contests” .

It can be argued that given this specific language other professional combat sports such as kickboxing cannot be regulated, therefore they will remain illegal.  BC appears to have taken this stance.

Perhaps the more sensible interpretation of the Provinces powers is that if they can regulate professional MMA they can regulated any subset martial art so long as the contest’s rules do not allow techniques outlawed by MMA.  For example, all techniques that are legal in a professional kickboxing match are also legal in MMA and it could be argued that a Province is well within their rights to regulate and sanction such sports.

What About Amateur MMA and Other Combat Sports?

Some Amateur combat sports will be legal by default and others will remain illegal by default, this includes amateur MMA.

Amateur combat sports that will be legal by default will include those  “in the programme of the International Olympic Committee”.    These include  Boxing, Wrestling, Judo and Tae Kwon Do.

Other Amateur combat sports, such as MMA, Kickboxing and Karate, remain illegal by default.  However, Bill S-209 allows this to be fixed by permitting Provinces to make them legal by specifically designating them. This is a useful tool and one that each Province should quickly use to give all Canadians a list of permitted amateur combat sports.

In short, Bill S-209 is a welcome change to the Canadian combat sports legal landscape.  I encourage all stakeholders in the combat sports community to now contact your Provincial authorities and encourage them to pass legislation addressing the amateur gap.

Here is video of the actual vote

Further to my efforts to keep track of Canada’s progress in formally legalizing MMA, Bill S-209 has now passed first reading in the House of Commons.  Below is the official Hansard transcript:

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).
    This legislation seeks to amend the Criminal Code by expanding the list of permitted sports under the prize fighting provisions. This change to Canada’s prize fighting laws is long overdue.

     Mixed martial arts have come a long way as a sport in the past 20 years. Their safety record is admirable, their product is popular throughout Canada and worldwide, and the list of Canadians like Georges St-Pierre who excel at this sport is constantly growing.

    I am proud to do my part as a member of Parliament to modernize our laws, since this particular part of the Criminal Code has not been updated since 1934.

  + -(1005)  

[English]

    Currently, close to 100,000 Canadians who practice combat sports, some of these sports are recognized by the International Olympic committee, such as judo and tae kwon do, can be considered to doing so illegally under the current provisions of the Criminal Code. Bill S-209would merely correct this oversight so that Canada can effectively regulate acceptable combat sports openly.
    Seeing as how this bill is non-controversial and is a sensible piece of legislation that clearly addresses a blind spot in the Criminal Code, I look forward to seeing the bill passed expeditiously with the support and co-operation of all members.

 

     (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

A brief update for those of you who have been following my concerns regarding Bill S-209 potentially criminalizing currently lawful amateur martial arts contests.

As previously reported, BC’s Minister of Sport has responded to my concerns and is aware that appropriate Provincial legislation will need to be introduced if/when Bill S-209 passes.  I am pleased to report that the Federal Minister of Justice’ s office will also review my concerns.  Below is my exchange with the Honourable Senator Bob Runciman’s office.  I will write a further update once I have the reply of the Federal Minster of Justice’s office.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mr. Raison, thank you for your reply.  I look forward to hearing from you once the Minister of Justice’s office has a chance to review this.

 My concern is that amateur contests (such as Karate and other non-Olympic martial arts) become outlawed with the proposed amendment unless Province’s specifically intervene and designate such contests as being appropriate.  This can leave many martial arts contests behind.  I can appreciate that this is not the goal of the Bill but such an interpretation appears correct.  As Minister Chong’s letter indicates, there would be a gap on the Provincial side in BC which would need intervention if Bill S-209 passes in its current form and I imagine the same would be true for other Provinces.

 Thanks again for looking at this concern.

 Yours truly,

Erik Magraken

 _______________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Raison, Barry [mailto:raisob@SEN.PARL.GC.CA]
Sent: August-20-12 6:55 AM
To: Erik Magraken
Subject: RE: Bill S-209 and Provincial Implications

 

Mr. Magraken,

 

It is not our view that the bill does what you believe it does. The province can delegate the authority for oversight under the bill, as they do now. You should also note that this bill, although not a government bill, is nearly identical to the former Bill C-31, a government bill from the 2nd session of the 40th Parliament.

 

Nonetheless, I am forwarding your concerns to our contact in the Minister of Justice’s office.

 Barry Raison, Policy Advisor,

Office of the Honourable Senator Bob Runciman,

351 East Block, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A4

613-943-4020 (phone)

613-943-4022 (fax)

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

 From: Erik Magraken 

Sent: Friday, August 17, 2012 5:15 PM

To: Raison, Barry
Subject: Bill S-209 and Provincial Implications

 Senator I wrote last month but have not had a reply, I thought it would be prudent to follow up.

 First off, thank you for your work on Bill S-209.  I welcome this legislation.

 I write to raise a concern with respect to Provincial implications on the amateur level.  The legislation, in its present wording, will work to criminalize amateur provincial contests by default unless each Province enacts an appropriate regulatory body.  Many Provinces, including my home Province of BC, don’t have such a body.

 I have raised this concern with BC’s Ministry of Sport and they advise they are aware of the issue.  You can see the Minster’s response here:

 http://canadianmmalawblog.com/2012/07/20/provinces-must-make-sure-your-karate-kid-does-not-become-a-criminal-under-bill-s-209/

 I write to suggest that other Provinces be made aware of this issue so they can take appropriate steps to regulate Amateur contests given that your Bill appears well on its way to becoming law.  Any steps your office can take to achieve this would be appreciated.

 Yours truly,

Erik Magraken 

 

 

 

I’ve recently written about the Federal Government’s effort to modernize the Criminal Code to permit MMA and other Striking Sports to become lawful.

While this amendment will allow the sport to be properly regulated on a Professional level, review of the legislation appears to create a potential gap on the amateur side. The reason being that “prize fights”, including MMA and other martial arts contests, will become illegal on the amateur side unless one of the following 3 exceptions apply:

(a) if the sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee (Note many martial arts, including MMA, are not)

(b) if the sport has been designated by the Province’s lieutenant governor in council or by any other person or body specified by him or her, or

(c) if the contest is held “in a province with the permission of the Province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her.

Currently I am not aware of any BC legislation setting out a list of designated or permitted amateur contests.  Under the current Criminal Code language this is not needed as amateur contests are exempt from criminalization where “the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass”.  However, given the proposed re-wording it appears amateur bouts without a specific designation may unintentionally become outlawed.

The passage of the proposed federal legislation may unintentionally criminalize otherwise lawful amateur contests on a Province by Province basis.  The solution will be for the various Provinces to be aware of this and make appropriate designations on the Provincial level.

Despite a relatively long history of hosting professional MMA bouts, inlcuding several high profile UFC contests, professional MMA bouts presently are illegal in Canada.  This is so due to the outdated language of section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code which makes it an offence to engage in a “prize fight” except in limited circumstances.

Currently Section 83 of the Criminal Code reads as follows:

Engaging in prize fight
  • 83. (1) Every one who
    • (a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
    • (b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
    • (c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,

    is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

  • Definition of “prize fight”(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.

The Government of Canada has introduced legislation to modernize the definition of exempt “prize fights” to include properly sanctioned MMA events.  Specifically Bill S-209 seeks to make the following changes:

2) In this section, “prize fight” means 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, but does not include
 
 
(a) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee and, in the case where the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her requires it, the contest is held with their permission;
 
 
(b) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport has been designated by the province’s lieutenant governor in council or by any other person or body specified by him or her and, in the case where the lieutenant governor in council or other specified person or body requires it, the contest is held with their permission;
 
 
(c) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province with the permission of the province’s lieutenant governor in council or any other person or body specified by him or her; and
 
 
(d) a boxing contest or mixed martial arts contest heldin a province with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board, commission or similar body established by or under the authority of theprovince’s legislature for the control of sport within the province

In short this proposed legislation will allow Provinces to regulate both professional and amateur “Prize Fights” which will specifically include MMA.  Currently the Bill is being debated before the Senate.  You can click here to read the Senate’s news release over these hearings.  You can access webcasts of these meetings here and here.