Monday, May 06, 2019

Today the proposed legislation was revealed shedding details on what exactly this overhaul entails.  In short, the Province is starting from scratch. The legislation seeks to repeal the current Athletics Control Act and replace it with the Combat Sports Act.

The legislative details are contained in Schedule 9 of Bill 100 Protecting What Matters Most Act (Budget Measures), 2019.

The Combat Sports Act sets out exactly what combat sports will be legal in the Province.  It addresses both amateur and professional combative sports.  These cover

 (a)  a sport in which contestants,

         (i)  strike their opponents using their hands, fists, feet or any other body part or any combination of them,

        (ii)  use throwing, grappling, wrestling or submission techniques, or

        (iii)  engage in any other prescribed technique; or

  (b)  a sport designated by the Minister in the regulations.

The Act creates a commissioner in charge of combative sports and also an advisory council who will be responsible for advising the Minister about needed regulations governing these sports.

The true details of what will be allowed and not allowed will be set out in regulations.  These are yet to come.  However, the Act itself does give insight into what is contemplated.  The above definition is broad enough to allow any known striking sports such as boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, MMA, and others. It also allows professional grappling contests, amateur grappling contests, and most importantly discretion is built in for the Province to allow other combative sports by ‘designation‘.

Interestingly, this legislation appears to break the monopoly Ontario handed Provincial Sports Organizations over amateur combative sports.  Presently Ontario recognizes various PSO’s and hands them monopoly power over their respective combative sport. This legislation allows anyone to apply to the Commissioner for a permit to hold an amateur combative sport event in the future even if it is outside of the PSO monopoly model.

Specifically, the Act notes that Amateur Combative Sports can be defined in the regulations.  Section 43 of the Act notes “The Minister is deemed to be specified by the Lieutenant Governor in Council as a person for the purposes of designating combative sports for the purposes of paragraph 83 (2) (b) of the Criminal Code(Canada).“ This means that the Regulations passed pursuant to this law will set out legal combative sports and these will comply with the framework set out in the Criminal Code.

When determining what Professional and Amateur combat sports are allowed the Minister is given broad power to pass regulations:

(a)  designating sports as combative sports for the purposes of clause 1 (2) (b);

(b)  governing the conduct of an amateur combative sport contest or exhibition and the conduct of a professional combative sport contest or exhibition, including prescribing rules relating to such contests and exhibitions;

This means regulations can allow basically any professional or amateur combative sport. Even if a specific rule set is designated for a sport the Regulations can give the Commissioner power to approve a new ruleset as set out in the following provisions:

Exemption from rules prescribed under subs. (1) (b)

(4)  A regulation made under clause (1) (b) may permit the Minister to exempt an amateur combative sport contest or exhibition or professional combative sport contest or exhibition from the rules set out in the regulation that apply to the combative sport, provided that the Minister is satisfied that the contest or exhibition satisfies such requirements as set out in the regulation.

Where no rules prescribed in respect of combative sport

(5)  If no regulation is made under clause (1) (b) prescribing rules in respect of a particular combative sport, the Minister may make regulations requiring a person wishing to promote, conduct or hold an amateur combative sport contest or exhibition or professional combative sport contest or exhibition involving the combative sport to obtain the Minister’s approval of rules that will apply to the contest or exhibition.

The real details will emerge when this Bill passes and regulations are published. Until then what is known is this Act will create a broad framework permitting most any imaginable amateur and professional combative sport in Ontario including the possibility for a combative sport to deviate from rigid rulesets.

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Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, founder of the Combat Law Sports Blog, and profoundly appreciated UGer.