An Ontario senator has introduced a bill to rewrite a section of the Criminal Code to legalize the sport of mixed martial arts across Canada.
The sport is illegal under strict interpretation of Criminal Code Sec. 83 (2), which states hand-to-hand combat — boxing — is the only legal form of prize fighting. However, all provinces with athletic commissions currently allow MMA.
The bill was introduced by Senator Bob Runciman. A representative at Runciman’s office on Tuesday said the bill would “remove ambiguity” concerning mixed martial arts. It would amend only one clause, according to the official.
As the Criminal Code is written, prizefighting is defined as “an encounter or fight with fists or hands.” The amendment, said the official, “doesn’t replace, it adds, ‘fights with hands or feet’ and opens it up to mixed martial arts.”
The amendment would allow all provinces to host professional events without fear of repercussions under the Criminal Code. Professional events have been held in Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, while amateur events are routinely promoted in Saskatchewan under the Unified Rules of MMA. It’s been years since the province had a commission to sanction professional combat sports. Nunavut, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador also do not have commissions.
Canada is one of UFC’s top markets, drawing record crowds in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The company is expected to announce Wednesday at a news conference in Calgary that the city will host UFC 149 on July 21, UFC’s first event in Alberta.
In the past, UFC officials have said cities such as Ottawa, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax could also be considered for either pay-per-views or events on cable TV.
The bill tabled on Thursday by Runciman went through first reading, the opening of a multi-step process that could lead to the legalization of the sport. After a second reading in the Senate, the bill would be sent to committee for study, which would then send a report back. From there, the bill would have to pass a third reading, be sent to the House of Commons, and go through three more readings plus another committee.