The UFC has been working since 2009 to overturn the federal law in Canada’s criminal code that deems all combat sports but boxing illegal. And while in the meantime they’ve forged ahead with events in provinces that were willing to say fuck da law, it’s nice to know our sport is no longer technically illegal in Canada:
Members of Parliament have passed a Senate bill that will change the Criminal Code to make mixed martial arts and other combative sports legal in a final vote of 267–9.
The changes will update the definition of a prize fight, which until now was defined as an encounter or fight with fists or hands, meaning that not only was MMA outside the law, but so were Olympic sports such as judo and taekwondo.
Ontario and Quebec had worked around the law by designating Ultimate Fighting Championship events as boxing matches, but the new changes in the Criminal Code will provide all provinces, promoters and regulators with a firm legal basis.
The Canadian MMA Law Blog (something I didn’t even know existed until today) gets into the nitty gritty of the legal change:
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.
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.
Well, if they were able to go ahead and ‘interpret’ the original criminal code law as MMA friendly when it totally wasn’t, perhaps they will say “Eh, close enough” when it comes to kickboxing and other combat sports. Then again, maybe they won’t. Seems to me like the only time exceptions are willing to be made is when there’s enough money on the table to persuade someone important to let shit slide. Does corruption only apply when it’s government officials lining their own pockets or is it still sketchy when a province required x amount of cash to grease the wheels too?
Front-Page Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports