The Canadian Medical Association Takes a Swipe at Bill S-209


CMAAs Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’  While Bill S-209 is expected to pass into law giving professional MMA a legal framework in Canada, the Canadian Medical Association is doing what it can to derail this result.

In a press release issued this week, it is reported that the president of the Canadian Medical Association is warning MPs about the dangers of legitimizing mixed martial arts bouts.  While this is of  little surprise given the CMA’s official position that “all boxing be banned in Canada” it is a hypocritical position to take.   Although MMA / Boxing clearly come with risk of participant injury the overall risk is “lower than football, hockey, wrestling and soccer”.  It is a slippery slope to get into the issue of the prohibition of one sport without addressing others.  The CMA is not taking any public stance on other sports with higher injury rates making it hard to understand the driving force behind their position if it is not grounded in injury risk.

The CMA would better serve the community by informing the public of real risks of injury in any given contact sport, including long term health consequences from the realities of traumatic brain injury, instead of playing politics.  The public is best served with good information so participants can make informed decisions about whether they wish to engage in any given activity and the medical community can play an important role in educating the public of these risks.  Running away from regulation, on the other hand, does not serve the public interest.  One need look no further than the progress MMA has made over the past twenty years to realize that regulation has proven beneficial to the development of this sport and the safety of its participants.

The text of the full press release reads as follows:

OTTAWA – The president of the Canadian Medical Association is warning MPs about the dangers of legitimizing mixed martial arts bouts.

Dr. Anna Reid is appearing before the Commons justice committee which is studying legislation that would bring combat sports, including mixed martial arts, under supervision and regulation.

The bill would update the 80-year-old Criminal Code section dealing with prize fights.

Combat sports are currently in a sort of legal limbo in that they technically may be illegal under the law, but are condoned.

Supporters of the bill say it will promote safer practices in mixed martial arts, a popular — if often bloody — contest.

Reid says this kind of combat fighting is dangerous and often produces serious head injuries.

The association’s general council voted in 2010 for a ban on mixed martial arts prize fighting matches.

The present legislation passed the Senate with broad support and a similar bill had strong support on the Commons before it died due to prorogation.

Reid says the doctors don’t oppose combat sports such as judo and karate.

“However, cage fighting, like boxing, is distinct from many other sports, in that the basic intent of the fighter is to cause harm in order to incapacitate his or her opponent,” she said.

“And an activity in which the overriding goal is to pummel one’s opponent into submission does not promote good health.”

She said there is little evidence about the long-term risks from this kind of fighting, but noted studies show boxing poses risks of head trauma and subsequent neurological problems.

“For parliamentarians, and for society, the question of whether to legalize MMA under the Criminal Code therefore comes down to a choice: a choice between money and health.”

She said it is her duty to protect the health of patients and to promote non-harmful activities and it is the mandate of the CMA to advocate for the highest standards of health and health care.

“For me, as a physician, it is about putting health first. I cannot condone punches to the head.”

Here is a screenshot of their contemporaneous tweet stream:

CMA Bill S 209 Tweet Stream


Erik Magraken is a personal injury litigator and Partner with the British Columbia law-firm MacIsaac & Company. You can follow his BC Injury Law Blog here:

39 Responses to “ The Canadian Medical Association Takes a Swipe at Bill S-209 ”

  1. Jason Heit says:

    Quality regulation, refs, matchmaking, medical screening, coaching, technique and fitness are keys to the safety of MMA athletes. We’re back to the old battle of driving the sport underground which only makes it more dangerous.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. Idolmaker says:

    209 bitch!!!!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Justin says:

    The government has a right to prohibit us from doing action that can harm unwilling participants or society as a whole (drunk driving, drug dealing, assault, or even gun control).

    The government has no right to prohibit mutually consented actions that do not harm society as a whole, and where the participants are willing. MMA has strict rules, regulations, and sufficient awareness. Furthermore, MMA provides entertainment for society.

    Stay out of MMA. Stay out of our lives, unless we are harming society.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  4. Idolmaker says:

    What needs to happen is legitimizing the fighters being used. Should be 2 skilled opponents, not 1 and a scrub. Too common

    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Robin Black says:

    Idolmaker should be renamed LegitSolidPointMaker.

    Great points all.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Shane Btp Mountney says:

    Thia is why i like our commission in ontario…for the safety side of things…you wont see a guy 5-0 going up against a guy 1-6…and you have to prove youraelf on some level…by who trains you…who you train…with and have some amature experience…of some sort…cant just show up and apply for a professiinal license…our professional licensing process is quite strick on this and with meds needed…also on match ups…you would never see some of the match ups you see in western Canada in Ontario!…yes tgey do make it difficult for promoters to put on shows…but i see that as they want someone who is gonna put some legitemacy behind it…i could be wrong about that but thats the way i see it!…so there wont be any promotera just praying on any type of fighter to make a buck!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  7. Jerry says:


    Thank you! Was getting disheartened by the commonplace sentiment around here that we need govt to “protect” the sport, etc.

    We are all adults who can choose to fight or not fight, choose to attend, or not attend, etc. Civil society can work these things out without help from overpaid bureaucrats.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  8. Robin Black says:

    The govt isn’t here to “protect” us from this great sport or from fighting.

    Its here to legislate structures that are in place to ensure that unscrupulous wanna be promoters don’t take advantage of fighters and fans in their quest to make money.

    Someone needs to do it.

    Fighters need med tests and many other safety checks to protect everyone. There are many great positive promoters out there but there are also vultures that would be willing to turn a blind eye in their quest for profit.

    This and many other challenges makes 3rd party monitoring and legislation necessary and, since there’s no measurable profit in (non self serving) legislation, provincial legislation is the only logical option from any educated perspective.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. Well said Robin. A clear legal framework is needed to help ensure the integrity and positive growth of this great sport. Checks and balances, not to mention certainty when it comes to not only fighter safety but also the very legality of this sport are some of the positive things that will flow once Bill S-209 comes into force.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. Robin Black says:

    Erik, are you ever in Toronto?

    I’d love to have you on Ramdeen’s and my show 5 Rounds.

    We could chat legislation and maybe contracts and other legalities.

    Similar in tone to this one with Dr. Faisal, but talking legal topics instead of medical:

    Cheers Erik keep up the great work!

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. I’m considering a trip to Toronto this Summer, if I make it out there I’d be happy to appear on 5 Rounds. Thanks the invitation and the positive feedback.


    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  12. Marv says:

    Right Shane, soooo that’s why you brought a 2-1 fighter out west to fight a then 13-5 UFC vet and then #1 ranked heavyweight in Canada?! Only to get knocked the fuck out in the first round?! Yea you’re right though commissions shouldn’t allow mismatched fights…….but neither should coaches

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  13. Shane Btp Mountney says:

    Hehe…well you got me there Marv except Craig wanted that fight and it was a risk…with a very high reward… didnt go our way…but Craig still did very well in that fight controlling the pace and tempo…until he made one mistake…he did not look like he didnt belong in there with Hague…especially on short notice…im more talkin about fights where guys are on a winning streak of four or five fights and fight guys that have losing records…you wont have promoters matching up guys like say Veltri with Kyle Vivian…im not knocking either one of these guys…but they have similar records btw this is just an example…but promoters arent their to help guys like this… their there to use guS like these as feeder fish to help much more marketable prospects and line their pockets…ive worked with some great promoters and some not so great promoters…and this i have learned through experience…is the way it is

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  14. Shane Btp Mountney says:

    Lets not stray off topic here and turn this it to another BTP bashing segment…i was just merely conveying why i like our commision…btw which is a provincial comission…and does have coaches of the various martial arts on it…i would also like to re iderate a point i made before…the canadian medical association in this statement is not going after combat sports such as Judo or Karate…well to me this is not fair to center out mma…for those of you who have trained and competed in Karate or Judo as i have…know that there are alot of injuries in these sports aswell…i have personally koed more than a few of my opponents in the 32 yrs i have competed… or inflicted or have recieved some sort of damage to myself…it is what is accepted when one xhooses to compete in a combat sport….mma is no different and shouldnt be treated as such on any level!…

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  15. Good point Shane.

    As discussed, the CMA’s position does not seem to be grounded in injury risk alone or if it is they do a poor job by ignoring data of injury risk in other sports and unfairly singling out MMA.

    It is odd that they oppose Boxing/ MMA but support Karate / Judo as the overall injury risk is comparable. The prevalence of injury from combat sports requiring admission to a hospital in Canada is not much higher for boxing (with a rate of 4.8%) as compared to 3.6% for Judo, 3.1% for Karate, and 2.9% for wrestling.

    Once this is pointed out a fall back position seems to be to single out concussive injury risk(which should not be undermined in any way) however what they fail to note is striking sports such as boxing or MMA have concussive risk similar to non-striking contact sports such as Hockey and Rugby with the following identified concussive injury ratio:

    Amateur Boxing – 0.58 per 100 athlete exposures
    Hockey 0.28 per – 100 athlete exposures
    High School Rugby – 0.38 per 100 athlete exposures

    I’m a big fan of informed consent. The public should have access to meaningful data of injury risk and repercussions from sport. From there they can make an informed decision to participate or not. Prohibition is not the solution.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. Interestingly, Dr. Anna Reid, the President of the CMA, appeared on a local BC Radio show today and acknowledged that “we don’t have a lot of research available yet as to the rate and severity of the injuries” and further that
    “we don’t know the rates of the injuries …but my argument is any injury is too much”

    That about says all that needs to be said in terms of the data backing up the CMA’s attack on MMA. By that logic all sports should be outlawed. We should expect better from the CMA than this.

    The clip can be found here under the April 16, 2013 archives:

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Marv says:

    No Shane, that was a good answer, the information provided in your rebuttal was sufficient enough for me not to pursue this topic any further. And thanks for not turning green and ripping your shirt off over it. But yes to the bill, I have played every contact sport competitively and also trained and sparred mma. This includes hockey, lacrosse and football and I can tell you just from growing up playing those 3 sports that the risk associated with mma is no greater than the risk of said sports. In my life I have suffered two separated shoulders, one concussion, two broken noses, scar tissue in my forehead, a fractured knee cap, broken knuckles, torn ankle ligaments, a torn deltoid muscle, a fractured tail bone and most recently a hyperextended elbow and only one of these injuries occurred while doing mma. I’m not gonna be one of these guys that says its safer than hockey or football because its not! But when you participate in a contact sport the risk is the same accross the board. Look what happened to that kid from Louisville in the march madness tourney have you ever see. That in mma?! I don’t think so… Maybe in the Thai underground but whatever…they’re crazy

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. Marv says:

    @idolmaker, don’t worry I didn’t forget About that, very ugly injury but at least his bone stayed in his skin, not like the basketball injury

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. Shane BTP Mountney says:

    heres a clip of what im talking about for those who have never seen a point fighting karate match!…looks just as dangerous as mma to me…and this is suppose to be light to semi contact! and this happens every weekend in our country everywhere!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Shane BTP Mountney says:

    but the canadian medical association has issue with MMA…but not this…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Shane BTP Mountney says:

    one more clip…this one is 7 yr olds competing in taekwondo

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Shane BTP Mountney says:

    and just cause they mentioned Judo,,,head hist mat at 2:29

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Anthony says:

    holy shit, too many super nerds on this forum.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  24. Robin Black says:

    Dr. Anna Reid, despite having data showing that “cage fighting” is no more dangerous than other sports is using her post to further her agenda of stopping this bill likely because she personally finds it culturally distasteful.

    Imho this is a misuse of her position in the CMA.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. Not just a misuse of her position but also not her job. She shouldn’t be using her own opinion without the data to back it up.

    How many other decisions and opinions does the CMA have where there is no data?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Shane BTP Mountney says:

    if she is aying an injury is to much…might asweel stop every sport played in this country of ours…every sport has some minimal risk of injury…heck even bowlers hurt there wrists…;)

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  27. There is a reading happening today/tonight, and possibly a vote to put this new law into play.

    We should have more info tomorrow.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that this bill passes and is in effect sooner than later!

    There are problems with it, but it’s a good thing for MMA.

    Amateur suffers, and the biggest hit is Professional Kickboxing. Without the terms of Muay Thai or Kickboxing in the new rules, only Professional MMA and Boxing will be legal in Canada if I’m reading things correctly.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Muay Thai and KB, like MMA, weren’t legal before Bill S-209. Curious if commissions continue to allow them, just as they did for MMA before S-209.

    Commissions might just re-word things for KB and Muay Thai. Call them stand up MMA in their regulations in order to allow them.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Keith, I think you hit the nail on the head. S-209 is not perfect but it is better than what we have.

    Just as Provinces have found a way around the criminal code (Look at Quebec with their “mixed boxing”) Provinces can likely find away around the shortcomings of S-209.

    I suspect the argument would be that so long as an event does not allow any techniques that are banned under the Unified Rules it is within the scope of the Provinces to regulate as being a sport that is a subset of MMA.

    Where there’s a will there’s a way!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Jamie Locke says:

    I think the “mixed ” is the all encompassing word here. Just as Erik said, as long as its within the unified rules, it should be allowed to be separated.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Thanks for your comment Jamie.

    While this is likely an out for willing Provincial Commissions, it looks like BC is unfortunately taking a more conservative route and refusing to licence (at least at this stage) professional kickboxing, Muay Thai etc. –

    See the AC’s FAQ

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. I think now that the federal code is changing which will more clearly define the guidelines, provinces will be less likely to change anything to allow Kickboxing and Muay Thai. In the past it was a very grey area (MMA included) that was overlooked due to the vague laws.

    Now that they will be more clear the provinces aren’t going to go out on a limb when the federal government is not endorsing or including Kickboxing in the law.

    Nobody lobbied to get Muay Thai or kickboxing in the rules either. Whereas UFC was going hard to get MMA included.

    I also think it was by design to not include Muay Thai or Kickboxing.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Jamie Locke says:

    Why do you think they would be against Muay Thai or Kickboxing MAD?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. The feds,during the Bill S-209 debates, were asked to specifically expand the professional exceptions beyond just boxing and MMA. Pat Reid asked that they specifically address other martial arts but the feds seem unwilling to do so.

    Here is a link for more on this:

    MAD correctly highlights the other side of the coin which is now that the Feds have (or soon will) go through all the effort of legislative reform and excluded other combat sports despite being specifically asked to include these Provinces may be gun-shy to push the boundaries.

    I suspect given S-209’s language it will come down to a Province by Province issue.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Because it was the UFC that lobbied to get it done, and MMA was their focus and concern.

    Nobody lobbied the government for Muay Thai or Kickboxing, and as such, on a federal level, they deem kickboxing/muay thai as illegal with the new laws.

    Like Keith said though, currently, muay thai, and mma are illegal according to the outdated law, but now that it’s been revamped, and redefined, I can’t see any provinces going with it, when on a federal level, they aren’t supported.

    it would be similar to the US, when certain states allow Medical marijuana, but on a federal level it’s still illegal. I just don’t see any provinces doing anything about this.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. What’s stranger is that the wording works to allow Amateur kickboxing if a provincial body wanted to sanction it, but a bit tougher to pull off Pro.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0


    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin):
    Is the House ready for the question?

    Some hon. members: Question.


    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: No.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

    Some hon. members: Yea.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those opposed will please say nay.

    Some hon. members: Nay.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): In my opinion the yeas have it.

    And five or more members having risen:

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 22 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 5, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

    This will be discussed June 5th, and hopefully a vote will occur and this law will pass.

    Looking good so far.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

Leave a Reply

Some HTML is OK