Members of Parliament Vote to Give MMA Legal Framework in Canada!

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s-209Canadians 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 bringing in 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 made prize fighting illegal except in limited circumstances. The exceptions were limited to certain boxing contests. 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 and 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, like Saskatchewan, 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 regulate 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 and Kickboxing, 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.

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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.

10 Responses to “ Members of Parliament Vote to Give MMA Legal Framework in Canada! ”

  1. Robin Black says:

    Thanks for the update Erik great stuff man!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. My pleasure.

    Cheers!

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Jamie Locke says:

    Great stuff indeed!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Cody Moorman says:

    About time! Maybe Saskatchewan can finally get some much needed fights here! Great opportunity for the locals to finally get regular fights like they’ve been craving and deserve!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Roderick says:

    Cody,

    Only if the LG in Saskatchewan puts it on the list … better hope s/he is an MMA fan – if not nothing will change in SK.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Jamie Locke says:

    Same story for Newfoundland. I hear there are some hungry fighters over there.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. There is definitely work to be done on the Provincial side. Provinces that have not yet legalized MMA need to be lobbied to do so.

    The bigger problem lies with amateur MMA. With Bill S-209 in place amateur MMA is illegal by default. Provinces need to be approached to address this.

    You can click here for more on this topic

    http://canadianmmalawblog.com/2013/06/06/now-that-were-done-celebrating-bill-s-209-time-to-get-to-work/

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Roderick says:

    Erik,

    Calgary’s current by-law deems amateur MMA pro …

    Hypothetically, AB LG signs the roll, and amateur MMA is OK in AB. What affect does that have, in your opinion, if any, on Calgary by-law?

    Who will be handling the fighter suspensions and database for provinces that OK amateur MMA? I think this is going to be a big problem with amateur fighters fighting on “unsanctioned cards” when they try to fight in a province/city that has a commission …

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Thanks for your comments Roderick.

    There is certainly work to be done to get a proper framework in place now on the amateur side. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to answering your last question.

    On the municipal side of things, it appears there is nothing wrong with a local commission acting given the correct Provincial framework. BC, for example, has recently stripped all local commissions of their powers with the introduction of a Province wide commission.

    It’s not clear if Alberta needs legislative overhaul to comply with S-209 but at a quick glance the current framework appears ok.

    To be above board the municipal commissions need to derive their authority “by or under the authority of the province’s legislature”

    This does not seem to limit regulation exclusively to a Province wide commission. There is likely no reason why the Provincial legislature cannot enact a law delegating authority for such commissions to municipalities. If such an act does not exist then one can question the authority of these local commissions.

    Section 535 of the Alberta Municipal Government Act specifically gives (or it least implies that it gives) local governments the ability to regulate professional and amateur contests. The authority does not appear to be limited to professional contests. It also encompasses MMA in its broad language.

    On a somewhat related jurisdictional topic, The Alberta Court of Appeal recently had the opportunity to address overlapping powers and the scope of local government authority to regulate fighting in the context of whether an Edmonton bylaw outlawing ‘consensual fighting’ was within their jurisdiction or if this treaded on the jurisdiction of the Feds., in finding it was ok the Court of Appeal gave the following reasons:

    [28] The legal effect of s 7 is to prohibit both consensual and non‑consensual fighting in public and quasi‑public places and to enforce that provision by imposition of a penalty…
    [39] We conclude that the dominant purpose of s 7 does not fall within the federal division of powers for the following reasons, some of which also supported my conclusion as to its “ pith and substance”:

    a. in purpose and effect it regulates the conduct and activities of people in public places with a view to promoting the safe, enjoyable and reasonable use of such property for the benefit of all citizens of the City;

    b. it creates an offence to engage in conduct which does not also amount to criminal conduct, i.e. the overlap with the Criminal Code is not complete;

    c. the penalty imposed is merely a fine, and conviction does not create a criminal record; most if not all of those convicted would view these consequences as less serious than those flowing from criminal conviction;

    d. the s 7 offence is found within a group of other offences prohibiting conduct which no one suggests is criminal, but which negatively impacts the use and enjoyment of public places; and,

    e. its focus is not the harm caused to victims of fighting, or to those involved in consensual fights but rather on those who, indirectly, are affected by street fighting, including neighbors and those using streets and sidewalks.

    [41] We agree with the reviewing judge that the provincial (or municipal) and federal aspects of s 7 are roughly equal in importance, triggering the application of the double aspect doctrine of judicial restraint which applies to uphold the validity of s 7; CWB at para 30; Reference re Securities Act, 2011 SCC 66 (CanLII), 2011 SCC 66 at paras 63‑67.

    [42] It is not possible to determine which aspect of legislative power is dominant in relation to the subject of s 7. It substantially overlaps both domains. The result is that we must apply the double aspect doctrine of judicial restraint to conclude that s 7 falls within the province’s power to legislate and is therefore valid.

    Given the right framework from Provincial legislation, I don’t see any reason why municipal commissions can’t exist.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Roderick says:

    Erik,

    Thank you for a fulsome and robust response.

    However the question is in regard to any commission that hypothetically imports a deeming provision.

    Let’s say that BC, for example, has a LG that won’t sign MMA to the rolls – if the provincial commission deems amateur to be pro, it seems like a way to get around the legislation …

    In any event (and I hope I am proved wrong) this change to the law is far from the effect I think most hope it will have …

    Just like the chilling effect in Ontario and now, BC, this is going to hurt the sport (but not the UFC – and I am not anti UFC) as I understand that small time promoters cannot afford to put on a show now with punishing fees and overly stringent medical requirements, and I don’t see LG’s putting MMA on the rolls top on the list of their priorities, if at all …

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

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