Does the MFC’s Ban on Women’s MMA Violate Human Rights Legislation?
With MMA’s ever growing popularity comes a greater need to comply with legislative requirements. This is clearly in the long term interests of the sport and will help accelerate mainstream acceptance. With this in mind, Mark Pavelich, the outspoken CEO of Canada’s largest Mixed Martial Arts organization (the MFC), voiced recent comments worthy of scrutiny.
In an interview given earlier this week, Pavelich reiterated his long held views that woman’s MMA has no place in his organization.
Pavelich is quoted as saying “And don’t forget too, I’ve always said ‘I’m never going to put female MMA in my organization.’…I personally will never have it. And it’s no disrespect to female MMA fighters, because I do have an overabundance of respect for them“
His reason for this policy?
“It’s my only personal issue that I just don’t like to see females hitting each other. I really don’t, it’s maybe something weird in my brain, but I just don’t like the visual of that happening.“
Now, we are all entitled to our views and not everyone is a fan of MMA or WMMA. That said, can an Alberta fighting organization take such a stance? Likely not, given Section 7 of the Alberta Human Rights Act which stipulates that:
7(1) No employer shall
(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any
person…because of gender
But can’t it be argued that the MFC is not an employer but instead an organization which obtains the services of independent contractors? Probably not given the “broad, liberal and purposive interpretation” that Canadian Courts give to Human Rights legislation. The Alberta Human Rights Commission provides the following expansive summary of “employment” situations in the Human Rights context:
Alberta courts have considered the definition of employment in human rights legislation in a number of cases including those cited below.1 In Cormier, the court defined an employment relationship as “any contract in which one person agrees to execute any work or labour for another.” In Bugis, the court stated that to employ is “to utilize.” Under human rights law, courts and human rights tribunals have found employment relationships in situations which are broader than conventional ideas of what is “employment.” Independent contractors, subcontractors, taxi drivers, army cadets and volunteers have all been found to be in employment relationships under human rights legislation and therefore protected against discrimination.
MMA and Woman’s MMA have been growing at an unprecedented pace with greater mainstream acceptance by the day. MMA organizations hosting events in Canada would do well to stay with the times and the ever clearer defined boundaries regulating this sport. As the UFC has demonstrated over the past 20 years, embracing legislation and regulation are not only good for the growth of the sport, WMMA is as well.
Erik Magraken is a personal injury litigator and Partner with the British Columbia law-firm MacIsaac & Company. The article was re-printed with permission from his Canadian MMA Law Blog.