Archive for the ‘New Brunswick MMA Law’ Category

Two more Provinces now have professional MMA and other combat sports officially legalized.

Saskatchewan’s Athletic’s Commission Act and New Brunswick’s Combat Sport Act have now both received Royal Assent with Saskatchewan’s law coming into force on May 1, 2014 and New Brunswick’s law coming into force on May 21, 2014.

You can click here for a summary of the legal framework set out by these laws.

Saskatchewan

New Brunswick

Bill 72, New Brunswick’s Combat Sport Act, has passed Third Reading today making New Brunswick the latest Province to provide a legal framework for professional and amateur combat sports following recent amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code.

As previously discussed, below are the highlights of the newly minted New Brunswick law:

  • The Act regulates both amateur and professional combat sports.
  • On the amateur side boxing, judo, karate, tae kwon do and wrestling are ‘prescribed’ combat sports.
  • The list does not include amateur MMA although section 2 allows the government to add MMA  and other sports to the list by regulation.
  • The Act allows the Government to authorize Provincial Sport Organizations to “approve and regulate” amateur combat sports.  Once done these PSO’s will have monopoly powers to oversee their respective sports.  Realistically, if a PSO can be formed for amateur MMA in the Province a case can be made to add the sport to the Province’s prescribed list.
  • The Act carves out one exception to the need for PSO oversight of amateur combat sports, namely the ‘educational institution’ exception.  Amateur combat sports can be held without PSO approval in “a school, university or community college…if the event is being held as a part of the institution’s curriculum or extra-curriculum programming“.
  • On the Professional side, the Act creates a Province wide Combat Sports Commission which will be tasked to approve and regulate events in professional combat sports (with the exception of professional wrestling).  Here the act largely mirrors other jurisdictions with a Province wide commission tasked with overseeing “combat sports” which are defined as “a sport in which fighters use striking, throwing, grappling or submission techniques, or a combination of those techniques”.  This broad definition clearly captures MMA.  The commission enjoys the typical powers such as issuing licenses for events and event participants, and a host of administrative and investigative powers to ensure compliance.
  • Lastly, section 42 of the Act strips municipal commissions of their powers bringing a Province wide model to the oversight of combat sports in New Brunswick.

 

 

New Brunswick legislature image

Following the legal shake up caused by Bill S-209 which had the practical effect of shutting down MMA and Kickboxing  in Moncton, the Province of New Brunswick has now introduced legislation to create a Province wide athletic commission which will legalize and regulate these sports throughout the Province.

Bill 72, the “Combat Sport Act” was read for the first time on April 22, 2014 in New Brunswick’s legislature.

The full text of the bill can be found here: New Brunswick Bill 72

Bill 72 deviates somewhat from the paths other Provinces have taken.   I have had a chance to review the legislation and here are some of the highlights:

The Bill seeks to regulate both amateur and professional combat sports.

On the amateur side boxing, judo, karate, tae kwon do and wrestling are ‘prescribed’ combat sports.  The list does not include amateur MMA although section 2 allows the government to add MMA  and other sports to the list by regulation.    The act allows the Government to authorize Provincial Sport Organizations to “approve and regulate” amateur combat sports.  Once done these PSO’s will have monopoly powers to oversee their respective sports.  Realistically, if a PSO can be formed for amateur MMA in the Province a case can be made to add the sport to the Province’s prescribed list.

The Act carves out one exception to the need for PSO oversight of amateur combat sports, namely the ‘educational institution’ exception.  Amateur combat sports can be held without PSO approval in “a school, university or community college…if the event is being held as a part of the institution’s curriculum or extra-curriculum programming“.

On the Professional side, the Act creates a Province wide Combat Sports Commission which will be tasked to approve and regulate events in professional combat sports (with the exception of professional wrestling).  Here the act largely mirrors other jurisdictions with a Province wide commission tasked with overseeing “combat sports” which are defined as “a sport in which fighters use striking, throwing, grappling or submission techniques, or a combination of those techniques”.  This broad definition clearly captures MMA.  The commission enjoys the typical powers such as issuing licenses for events and event participants, and a host of administrative and investigative powers to ensure compliance.

Lastly, section 42 of the Act strips municipal commissions of their powers bringing a Province wide model to the oversight of combat sports in New Brunswick.

Moncton Logo

As previously discussed, Bill S-209 did not make MMA legal in all of Canada, instead it made the sport illegal by default and forced Provinces to pass appropriate laws if they wished to change this.  Provinces that fail to act in a timely manner jeopardize the local landscape of the sport.  Such a situation appears to now be unraveling in New Brunswick.

The Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission has been sanctioning combat sports and MMA for years although the ability of the Commission to get around the Criminal Code is questionable given the Province’s legal landscape.   I am now advised that the City has pulled the commission’s ability to sanction all combat sports outside of boxing and wrestling.  The City is concerned that given the now clear language of section 83 of the Criminal Code that New Brunswick lacks the proper top down framework to allow the City Commission to regulate MMA, Muay Thai and Kickboxing.  Moncton has taken the position that the authority of the Commission is now limited to boxing and wrestling and that MMA, Muay Thai and Kickboxing promoters “are left to judge for themselves if they can carry on events without violating the Criminal Code“.

This is an example of a problem which could have been avoided by proactive laws at the Provincial level in the face of Bill S-209.  Provinces such as BC have passed appropriate laws giving combat sports a clear framework in BC. New Brunswick, along with many other Provinces, need to do the same.  I have asked the Province for comment on this situation and will update this article once they respond.

Moncton Boxing Commission Logo

Update October 5, 2013 – The City of Moncton has now pulled the Commission’s ability to oversee MMA, Muay Thai and Kickboxing.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Although the City of Moncton has an established Athletic Commission with the power to regulate and oversee both amateur and professional MMA events, the Commission’s blessing may not be enough to get participants around Canada’s Criminal Code.

When analyzing the legality of MMA in any given jurisdiction in Canada the first stop is section 83 of the Criminal Code which makes the sport illegal by default.  To comply with the section a professional contest must be “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.

For an amateur MMA event to be legal the event must be held with the permission or with the designation “by the province’s lieutenant governor in council or by any other person or body specified by him or her” in compliance with Section 83(2)or(3) of the Criminal Code.  In other words, there has to be appropriate Provincial legislation creating the regulatory framework for the sport.

So what’s wrong in the case of Moncton?

The Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission derives their powers from Moncton Bylaw H-510.  This law creates the Commission and gives them the power to oversee various combat sports including professional and amateur MMA.  The problem, however, is there does not appear to be any Provincial enactment giving the City the power to pass such a law.  In legal terms, getting around the Criminal Code is arguably ‘ultra vires’ the City’s powers.

The ability of local governments to regulate MMA is a tricky subject when Provincial legislation is silent on the point.  Looking at other jurisdictions helps illustrate this.  While it is true that Alberta has a host of municipal commissions, there is a strong argument that they have obtained their power “under the authority of the province’s legislature” through Alberta’s Municipal Government Act which, in addition to the general powers it gives municipalities, strongly implies they have the power to regulate combat sports by the wording of section 535 which reads as follows:

Protection of sporting commissions 
535.1(1) In this section, “commission” means a commission 
established by bylaw for controlling and regulating any of the 
following: 
(a) boxing; 
(b) wrestling; 
(c) full contact karate;

(d) kickboxing; 

(e) any other sport that holds contests where opponents strike 
each other with a hand, foot, knee, elbow or other part of 
the body. 

(2) A commission and its members, officers, employees and any 
volunteers and officials performing duties under the direction of 
any of them are not liable for anything said or done or omitted to 
be done in good faith in the performance or intended performance 
of their functions, duties or powers under this Act or any other 
enactment. 
(3) Subsection (2) is not a defence if the cause of action is 
defamation.

The New Brunswick Provincial law does not contain a similar provision.  At best it appears the City of Moncton can try to rely on the general powers they have through the Municipalities Act or the Moncton Consolidation Act to regulate MMA.  When a city in Saskatchewan tried the same thing the Province was quick to shut down the effort stating the City law would not comply with the Criminal Code.

I have reached out to the Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission inviting them to point out any Provincial enactment that gives the City the power to oversee this sport.  As of the writing of this article they have not replied.

Clear Provincial legislation is strongly desired to give certainty to MMA and other combat sports participants.  The Provincial Government should do so and take away this legal ambiguity and uncertainty.  New Brunswick would be well served to either create a province wide commission or to pass the appropriate laws to make it clear that Municipalities indeed have the power to regulate the sport in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code.