Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Issue 18 - Evidence for May 9, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to
which was referred Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize
fights), met this day at 4:20 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Joan Fraser (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We are today beginning our
study of Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).
As honourable senators know, this bill's sponsor is Senator Runciman, who
is also the chair of this committee. However, because he is the sponsor of
the bill, he has asked me to chair the meetings on it on his behalf.
Senator Baker: Hear, hear.
The Deputy Chair: I am obviously pleased and honoured to do so.
We are delighted to have with us as our first witness on this bill the
Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), who is accompanied by
officials from Canadian Heritage: Nada Semaan, Associate Deputy Minister;
and Dan Smith, Director of Policy and Planning, Sports Canada.
Minister, I believe you have an opening statement.
Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport): Yes, I do, and thank
you, madam chair.
The only thing is, if the bells start ringing, I have to go for a vote.
We are going through that at the house right now, so if the duty calls that
way, both of my staff here will answer any questions you have.
Again, thank you for this invitation. Accompanying me today are Nada
Semaan, Associate Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, and Dan Smith,
Director of Policy and Planning, Sports Canada.
I am pleased to appear before you today concerning this committee's
review of Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).
I thank all the committee members for their time in considering this
matter, and I am happy to speak to you today in support of Senator
Runciman's initiative to update the Criminal Code.
As Minister of State for Sport, I can comment on the reasonableness and
even the necessity of revising section 83 of the code.
Canada, as we all know, is a leading sport nation. As participants and as
spectators, Canadians are motivated by sport. It is part of our national
identity. Our international success in sport contributes to our national
pride. One has only to think about our love for hockey and the pride and
enthusiasm of Canadians from coast to coast to coast as we hosted the world
at the Vancouver 2010 games and celebrated our athletes' outstanding
performances. Our athletes serve as role models and help motivate us to be
active and to strive for excellence in our daily lives, and our children
stay fit and healthy and learn important life lessons through sport.
Sport brings communities and nations together through local, provincial
and national sports competitions, and such international events as the 2010
Olympic and Paralympic Games and the upcoming pan and para-pan American
games that will be hosted in Toronto in 2015.
Sport has evolved and grown in importance in today's society, and the
government policies, regulations and legislation must evolve along with it.
Section 83 of the Criminal Code has not been amended since 1934.
Combative sport, since that time, has nevertheless changed dramatically.
Many new combative sports have emerged and increased in popularity.
Wrestling and judo have long been part of the Olympic Games. Other
combative sports, such as tae kwon do, have more recently been added to the
Olympic and pan American programs, while judo has just been added to the
Paralympic and para-pan American games.
Canadian athletes participated in amateur combative sport at the pan and
para-pan American games in Guadalajara last year and will again compete at
the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, England.
A number of national sport organizations representing combative sports
that are regulated by international federations have historically been
funded by Sport Canada, including Boxing Canada, the amateur wrestling
association, Judo Canada, WTF Taekwondo Federation, and Karate Canada.
Four of these five organizations represent Olympic sports, and para-judo
is a sanctioned Paralympic sport. Together, they represented more than
98,000 members last year. Yet, as the legislation stands, a number of
amateur combative sports, even though they are sanctioned by the
International Olympic Committee, for example, judo and tae kwon do, could be
considered illegal in Canada.
In addition, mixed martial arts are growing in popularly, and
organizations, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC, have
already achieved popular acceptance in Canada and around the world.
In fact, Canadians account for a sizable portion of the worldwide
commercial closed circuit television purchases of UFC events, and the
current welterweight champion of the sport, Georges St-Pierre, is a Canadian
with a strong domestic and international fan base.
While many Canadians compete in these combative sports today, they could
be deemed to be illegal in Canada under existing Criminal Code provisions.
I do not believe that popular sports that are played under an accepted
set of international rules should be deemed to be explicitly illegal in
Canada by the mere fact that they are combative sports. The legislation was
last updated in 1934, and it is clear that this legislation is no longer
The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to
the prize fighting offence so that amateur combative contests of the Olympic
program, such as judo and tae kwon do, would be allowed.
The other Criminal Code amendments under consideration by this committee
would provide clear direction in enabling a province to decide whether to
expand the list of designated sports permitted to take place within their
own jurisdiction and to authorize specific contests.
In the current reality, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have already
taken steps to create a workaround position on the UFC by classifying these
competitions as boxing events. Other Canadian provinces, such as Alberta,
are considering following suit, while others have continued to express
trepidation on the matter in the absence of revisions to the Criminal Code.
The proposed amendments acknowledge the current reality and widespread
practice and popularity of combative sports, including mixed martial arts,
and provide the necessary legal framework for the provinces and territories
to regulate amateur sports that would benefit everyone.
In summary, the greater clarity and legal certainty that will result from
this legislative amendment has long had the broad support of Canada's
provinces and territories.
Ministers responsible for sport and ministers responsible for justice
have engaged in discussions on this matter since 1999, and it can be
expected that the provinces will remain supportive of these amendments. The
amendments first identified in Bill C-31, which was supported by all parties
in the previous Parliament, responded specifically to requests from
provincial and territorial ministers. Now these amendments would allow for
emerging sports to be accepted and authorized in the future. They would also
enable provincial governments and regulating sports bodies to effectively
address safety issues in these sports.
However, with respect to the amendments proposed in subsection 2(a)
regarding the Olympic program, I would be remiss if I did not also suggest
that this committee look at adding the International Paralympic Committee to
the proposed amendment, as their sanctioned sport list also includes
Paralympic judo, for example, is already practised at the Paralympic
Games by athletes from more than 30 countries and has been on the Paralympic
program since the 1988 games.
Other combative Paralympic sports, such as karate and tae kwon do, may
also be included in future games, and the inclusion of these references to
the proposed amendment would reinforce our commitment to supporting Canada's
Paralympians on an equal footing with our Olympians.
In closing, as Minister of State for Sport, I support the aims of Bill
S-209, and I encourage members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House
to do so as well.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, minister, and of course we
do have questions.
Mr. Gosal: Sorry, I would like five minutes.
Senator Angus: Five questions at a minute each?
The Deputy Chair: You are leaving now, or you have five minutes?
Senator Angus: No, he has five minutes.
The Deputy Chair: One minute question and answer. Senator
Senator Runciman: Thank you, minister, for being here. It is a
significant endorsement of the legislation. You commented on it being a
recognition of reality, and it is the fastest-growing sport in North
America. As a sponsor of the bill, I am certainly very receptive to the
suggested amendment that you have put forward here today.
I am just wondering about the delegation of authority for regulation. We
have four provinces that have athletic commissions. I heard something on the
news — I think yesterday or today — with respect to British Columbia moving
in that direction as well. Is there a role for your ministry to encourage
the development of these kinds of commissions across Canada? I know that
there have been some established in the Maritimes, but then they folded for
whatever reasons. Is there a role for your ministry with respect to ensuring
that we have a standardization of rules across the country?
Mr. Gosal: Provinces set up their own commissions. We definitely
would encourage them. It is up to the provinces to set up all the
commissions they have. Ontario and Quebec have done that. A lot of these
sports are growing in popularity. I think they are looking at them. It is
under their jurisdiction, so it is up to all of the provinces to do that.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Senator Runciman. Sorry about that.
Senator Joyal: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome, Mr. Minister. It is the first time you have appeared here. We
are happy to welcome you.
As you know, the Canadian Medical Association is opposed to mixed martial
arts. What is your answer to the Canadian Medical Association to rebut their
position or to convince us that they are wrong in opposing the mixed martial
arts protection that the bill seeks to recognize?
Mr. Gosal: The Canadian Medical Association is indeed opposed to
it, but then there are a lot of medical doctors and a lot of studies. There
are both sides. For any sport, there are both sides. When we look at studies
done on mixed martial arts, the injuries that are occurring are very
comparable with those in all of the sports. The way that the rules are,
there are fewer knockdowns in mixed martial arts than in boxing. The rules
have been set up by different athletic commissions for mixed martial arts.
The rules are very strict, and they are enforced by referees. There are
medical professionals at the sites, so they are on both sides of this issue.
Senator Joyal: Are there more casualties in that form of sport
than in other sports of similar nature, like boxing or wrestling?
Mr. Gosal: In 2006, the Johns Hopkins University study compared
the incidence of injury in professional mixed martial arts and other
combative sports, and they found that it is very consistent with other
sports. It is at the same level. I just said that the knockdown rate is a
lot less than what it is in boxing.
The Deputy Chair: I will sneak in a supplementary here, if I may,
The idea of this bill goes back several years, and I think the initial
federal-provincial consultations go back several years as well. I notice
that you said that the provinces could be expected to continue to support
it. What has changed in recent years, minister, is surely that there has
been more and more research and more and more public discussion about the
long-term effects of concussion.
Mixed martial arts has frequently been compared, in terms of injuries, to
hockey and football. As it happens, hockey and football are the two sports
where we hear most about concussion, which can have terrible effects later
in life. Have you done any work on this? Have you amassed any studies? Are
you preparing to follow the implications of this new bill in that context?
Mr. Gosal: Especially lately, there is a lot of discussion about
concussions and head injuries. As the Government of Canada, we are committed
to having a safe environment for all sports, not just mixed martial arts.
For every sport, we want to have a safe environment where kids can go out
and play. That is why the Government of Canada committed $5 million over two
years to the Active and Safe Initiative, where different organizations are
doing studies on preventing head injuries and concussions.
Hockey Canada and a few of the organizations are already doing the study.
They are creating tools. They can download things on their phones as well so
that a lot of parents and coaches know when to go back to playing after a
concussion or head injury. We are already working on the prevention of these
The Deputy Chair: This would just be folded into that work?
Mr. Gosal: Yes, that is what it is. The idea is to prevent these
injuries and be more proactive and have parents and coaches know about these
The Deputy Chair: Okay. Are you being told you have to run away?
Mr. Gosal: One minute.
The Deputy Chair: One minute? Okay, I will give that minute back
to Senator Runciman on whom I was very tough.
Senator Runciman: Well, I was going to go on to the CMA one as
well. There is evidence — and we will hear from witnesses later — that
indicates that the occurrence of serious injuries is much lower than in some
of the other contact sports. We have certainly seen a rash of that in hockey
in the last couple years.
I do not have anything else. I just want to again thank the minister for
his support. We will certainly give serious consideration to the amendment
that he has suggested here today.
The Deputy Chair: You are getting off lightly, minister. This is
Mr. Gosal: Only this time.
The Deputy Chair: Tell your colleagues that you have a charmed
life. They do not usually get off so lightly.
Senator Angus: He may be back later.
Mr. Gosal: Sure. I have no problem coming back any time. I know
that all of you love sports. We all love sports, and we want great sports
teams in our country. The Olympics are coming up. We will be supporting our
athletes going to the Olympics.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much indeed, minister. The
officials will remain with us, colleagues, if you have questions for them.
To repeat, we have with us Ms. Nada Semaan, Associate Deputy Minister at
Canadian Heritage, and Mr. Dan Smith, Director of Policy and Planning at
Did either of you want to make an opening statement?
Nada Semaan, Associate Deputy Minister, Canadian Heritage: No, I
believe the minister made opening statements. We can take any questions. If
you would like us to concentrate on anything, though, we are happy to move
into whichever area you would like us to.
The Deputy Chair: Let me just ask one question pursuant to the
minister's remark that the provinces could be expected to support this. Has
there been any recent consultation with the provinces and territories about
this? We have received word from the government of Yukon, for example, that
they are in support, but have there been any discussions to confirm that
what was their position is still their position?
Ms. Semaan: The amendments that are proposed in the bill, other
than the mixed martial arts, were what were approved by ministers, both of
sport and justice, when they first discussed it in 1999 and that were
re-approved again in 2004-05. We know that they would support that element
of it because they had requested it. On the mixed martial arts, we are not
too concerned because, the way it is currently worded, provinces would have
the flexibility to choose which mixed martial arts events they would
sanction. The power is still within the provincial jurisdiction of what they
sanction and what they do not. Based on that, we do believe that they would
be supportive of it.
Senator Boisvenu: My questions are more out of curiosity. I did
karate for 20 years; I had a karate school, where I trained some black
belts. I did not know that karate was an extreme sport and that I may have
been committing an offence.
Has this been an issue for a long time? I am talking about the fact that
using feet and hands in a sport, except boxing, is illegal.
Ms. Semaan: That is really what the act currently says. Amateur
and professional boxing — which are approved by the provinces — are the two
exceptions to the act. A number of provinces have classified karate and
other combat sports as a form of boxing. In my opinion, legislation is being
consolidated, since some provinces have provisions and others do not have
this type of legislation. This initiative will harmonize legislation for all
Senator Boisvenu: So this is a kind of underground sport practice?
Ms. Semaan: Not underground, but it is a type of boxing.
Senator Boisvenu: Would we have this problem if all provinces had
a sporting commission, like Quebec? In other words, does the problem exist
because there are no such commissions in the provinces?
Ms. Semaan: I will ask our expert to complete my answer. Each
province has proceeded in its own way. As the minister said, Quebec and
Ontario have implemented changes so that they could regulate in this area.
Other provinces have allowed municipalities to deal with it. British
Colombia has been relying on municipalities to regulate. However, the
province is talking about creating a commission for this type of event.
Dan Smith, Director of Policy and Planning, Sports Canada, Canadian
Heritage: I do not think the problem would go away if every province had
a commission, since some provinces do have a commission. It is the
legislation that is problematic, given the fact that sports like karate and
taekwondo are considered illegal. By amending the legislation, we will make
sure all those sports are legal. A commission for sports and mixed martial
arts, as for other sports, will resolve the issue.
Senator Boisvenu: Extreme kickboxing is a heavily criticized
sport, where two boxers fight in a closed cage. The fighters often hit each
other without gloves or any kind of protection. That activity is strongly
disputed in terms of sports ethics. Will provinces continue to be able to
regulate sports where arms and legs are used and where sport tolerance is
bordering on the extreme? At some point, we are no longer talking about a
sport, but, as we say in Quebec, about a slugfest. Will provinces be able to
continue regulating this type of activity to ensure that it remains a
Mr. Smith: I am not a lawyer. However, if my understanding of the
legislation is correct, any province will be able to determine which sports
will be designated or not.
Senator Boisvenu: Legal or not?
Mr. Smith: Exactly. It is about determining whether they will be
considered prize fighting. With the exception of Olympic sports — and an
amendment will probably be made for Paralympic sports — those sports will be
designated for all provinces and territories. In addition to this measure,
each province will have the responsibility to determine which sports will be
designated or not.
Senator Chaput: What does the expression "amateur athlete'' mean?
Is that term defined by a federal or provincial piece of legislation? What
athletes or fights are covered by the term "amateur athlete''?
Mr. Smith: We sometimes talk about amateur athletes and
professional athletes. Professional athletes are, for instance, members of
the National Hockey League or the national baseball league. Amateur athletes
are, for instance, children or young athletes who practice karate or
taekwondo. Athletes who are members of our national teams and participate in
major events such as the Pan-American Games, Olympic Games or Paralympic
Games are considered amateurs. That category is now a gray area because, for
instance, in the Winter Olympics, professional athletes participate in ice
hockey games. Olympic sports are considered to be amateur sports. However,
professional athletes do participate in those events.
Senator Chaput: So the definition is not clear.
Mr. Smith: Not really.
Senator Chaput: Is the definition not based on athletes' ages?
Mr. Smith: No. We may be talking about amateur athletes, like me,
who play ice hockey as veterans, or about young people. I do not make any
money playing ice hockey.
Senator Joyal: I always thought that an amateur athlete was
someone who did not earn a living by playing their sport — so someone who is
not paid. Now, some amateur athletes receive grants, are sponsored by brands
or have other sources of funding. It is not as clear as saying an amateur
athlete is someone who plays sports for pleasure, as we tend to think. You
even provided an example. You play ice hockey in garage leagues, on
weekends, and no one will think that you earn a living by playing. If,
however, you are sponsored by a sports equipment brand to stay in that
field, or you have a grant, the distinction is more unclear than it is for
traditional amateurs, as understood in most cases. There is no definition or
key element for understanding what an amateur athlete is. You have excluded
age as a factor. I am adding the financial element as perhaps one of the
factors to keep in mind.
Ms. Semaan: For me, a professional is someone who has a career in
sports. Their job is to play hockey or basketball, for instance. For
amateurs, grants are only another way to play the sports.
Senator Joyal: Or to train.
Ms. Semaan: Their income is not limited to that grant. Most
Olympics or Paralympics athletes have another job. At our department, we
have a Paralympic athlete. She won a medal this summer. Her daytime job is
in the cultural field, and she plays amateur basketball, but she went to the
Pan-American Games. Did you want to add something?
Mr. Smith: Yes. In the past, the International Olympic Committee
had a clear definition. It had to do with funding related to the practice of
a sport. The situation and the environment have changed a lot over the past
few years, and athletes can now win prizes at competitions. They can also
have sponsors and other sources of funding. They are still considered
In sports like basketball, hockey and a few others, athletes from
professional leagues can now participate in the Olympic Games.
Senator Joyal: The area is a lot greyer now.
Mr. Smith: Exactly.
Senator Joyal: I am not trying to generate publicity, but I saw an
athlete on television wearing the logo of a well- known restaurant. His
contract is very strict: he must wear that restaurant's logo for public
This contract clearly supports the fact that the athlete trains
regularly. He meets his expenses thanks to this sponsorship, which is
somewhere between a grant and a form of real pay.
Senator Runciman: I just wanted to pursue a question I asked the
minister, and I am not sure he got my drift, with respect to standardization
of rules across the country and an advocacy role that perhaps the ministry
There are four provinces with athletic commissions. Edmonton is doing it
through the local council, I guess. Are these kinds of fights occurring in
other jurisdictions where they are essentially unmonitored, unregulated,
sort of no holds barred? Is that occurring at the moment?
Ms. Semaan: First, for example, the UFC, there is a lot of talk
about it being no holds barred, but there are a lot of rules and regulations
Senator Runciman: I am not talking about UFC.
Ms. Semaan: In which events, then?
Senator Runciman: There are other organizations that sponsor these
kinds of fights outside of UFC. Are they happening in areas where there is
little or no oversight? That is what I am getting at. I am trying to get
back to the original suggestion of the ministry considering an advocacy role
with respect to ensuring that there is some kind of standardization of rules
across the country.
Ms. Semaan: I will let Mr. Smith add to this, but the provinces
are the ones that are responsible for safety considerations within sport.
That is within their jurisdiction.
Senator Runciman: I understand that.
Ms. Semaan: We work closely with the provinces in terms of the
sport policy, part of which includes safety and the socio-economic benefits
of it, et cetera. We work together quite often. We meet at least annually,
if not more, to advance some of those things. Because of our close working
relationship, we obviously can have discussions on what works, and we try to
do harmonized things. To be quite honest, I think that having a law that is
a little bit clearer, that allows the provinces to do that, opens up the
door a lot more than having something that right now you have to deem
"boxing,'' and it is not really clear.
I will let Mr. Smith speak more about the policy and our other levers we
have with the provinces. I just want to be clear that we very much respect
each other's jurisdictions. When it is their jurisdiction, of course we work
well together, but we try to respect that.
Senator Runciman: I was not suggesting interference but simply
Mr. Smith: When this issue was first identified as something
significant and serious to be addressed, it was in the lead-up to the 1999
Pan American Games that were going to be held in Winnipeg. A number of
jurisdictions and ministers came to the meeting that year with a view that
something needed to be done. This is not mixed martial arts; this is the
Olympic sports or Pan American sports. There was a keen interest, and a lot
of discussion took place over the next four years amongst ministers.
The ministers do meet three times every four years, so there are other
opportunities where they can have a discussion. I would expect that as this
legislation is progressing, provincial and territorial ministers will have
an interest in discussing it with Minister Gosal. That would be the
opportunity to have a discussion about the merits of provincial commissions,
as an example.
Ms. Semaan: That is an important part. During those meetings, we
can always put things on the agenda to make sure that it is an agenda item.
In that way, we can at least influence the conversation to be had.
The Deputy Chair: I will sneak in one last question.
This bill changes the definition of prize fighting, which was hands and
fists. Now it will be hands and fists, or fists and hands, and feet. What
about elbows and knees and, for all I know, other body parts?
Senator Joyal: In hockey there is the bodycheck.
Ms. Semaan: That was actually the first thing I thought: Are we on
The Deputy Chair: I think that in some of these more extreme
sports, you do see things other than hands and feet being used. This bill
does not mention them. Could one then argue that those sports become
Ms. Semaan: In terms of the combat sports they are talking about,
each one of them, whether it be karate or judo, have rules of what is a
foul, what is not a foul, can you use an elbow, can you not. They are
regulated based on the rules of the sport.
I will let Mr. Smith answer to see if we have anything specific to that,
but it is just to take a look at these sports that are played around the
world. They are Olympic sports. We are heading into the Summer Olympics, and
some of these sports we are talking about in Canada would now be considered
Before I turn it over to Mr. Smith, I should say that another reason for
this is that we will be hosting the Pan American Games in 2015 and these
sports will be played there. When they are played in our own country, if it
is not corrected at that time, we are basically almost hosting sports that
The Deputy Chair: Before we go to Mr. Smith, I am intrigued by
this notion that things would be considered illegal. The Criminal Code is
the Criminal Code of Canada. It is the law of the land. It applies.
Ms. Semaan: Yes.
The Deputy Chair: If what we are being asked to do is to change it
to reflect today's circumstances, that is a reasonable request; however, if
in fact we are not going to be fully reflecting today's circumstances, I
find that a little odd, because I think the Criminal Code needs to be taken
seriously. It is not something where we say something is considered to be
illegal when the Criminal Code plainly says that it is illegal.
Ms. Semaan: I meant that technically it is illegal.
The Deputy Chair: Genuinely illegal.
Mr. Smith: I was just going to add that you were referring to the
definition of the prize fight. It defines "prize fight'' as a fight with
fist, hands or feet. "Or feet'' would be added. If it does not add "or
elbows'' or other things, it is not a prize fight, technically. Again, I am
not a lawyer, but I am giving my interpretation. That is the definition of
the prize fight. Not including elbows does not now make elbows illegal,
because it is not a prize fight, if that is all you used, although I cannot
imagine a sport quite like that.
Beyond that, what this legislation does is then indicate what are
excluded from that definition. Previously it was only amateur boxing and
boxing contests under the permission of a provincial authority, and now it
would include other provisions for exclusions, including the sports program
of the International Olympic Committee and possibly the Paralympic
committee, et cetera.
The Deputy Chair: Are you telling me that I am chasing a red
Mr. Smith: It is not that. I just think maybe it would not fall
within the definition of a prizefight and, therefore, not be considered
under this legislation.
Senator Joyal: What about mixed martial arts and martial arts? On
the basis of your reasoning, could martial arts not be included into the
Mr. Smith: Martial arts right now would include things like
jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, Thai boxing and other kinds of things like that. They
are illegal. They do meet the definition of a prizefight and, therefore, are
not permitted to occur. They do occur, but they are not permitted to occur
by the Criminal Code.
Any of those martial arts would now be captured with this legislation.
They would fall into A, B or C, and then mixed martial arts would be
regarded like boxing, as one that is overseen by a provincial commission or
a provincial authority.
They are prizefights under the definition, and they would be permitted to
be exceptions if a province chose to identify them, plus the ones on the
Senator Joyal: Yes, but what is admissible for a province to
recognize is mixed martial arts. It is not martial arts, per se.
Mr. Smith: Oh, I am sorry. I did not explain very well. Under
subsection 83(2), the first category, A, is the sports on the Olympic
program. The second category, B, is any of the combative sports that a
province chooses to designate, and then category C talks about a specific
contest that a province could choose to sanction as, "This one is okay; the
one that is happening two weeks from now is not okay,'' because of the
conditions that are being met or not being met.
Under A, B or C, jiu-jitsu and those other martial arts would be
The mixed martial arts only come into play in the D, where it
specifically is mentioned with boxing.
Senator Joyal: In other words, would they be covered, as you said,
by A, B or C?
Mr. Smith: Yes, that is my understanding.
Senator Joyal: That is your interpretation?
Mr. Smith: Yes.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you both very much, indeed. We are very
grateful, and it is very helpful. This is not a subject that has come before
this committee, in my experience. We are all on the learning curve. We are
all very grateful to you.
Honourable senators, we will let these witnesses leave and have the next
witnesses come to the table.
We are continuing our study of Bill S-109, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code (prize fights), and we have the pleasure of welcoming three very
knowledgeable witnesses now.
We have with us Mr. Ken Hayashi. Members of the public as well as
senators may well be aware that Mr. Hayashi is the Athletics Commissioner of
Ontario, but I must stress that he is appearing here as an individual — as
an expert individual — but as an individual. He is not speaking for the
Government of Ontario.
Is that correct?
Ken Hayashi, as an individual: That is correct.
The Deputy Chair: Next to him is Mr. Patrick Reid, Executive
Director of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission; and finally, we have
Dr. Teresa DeFreitas, who is a sports medicine consultant.
From the last session, I think you can expect questions, Dr. DeFreitas.
We will start with Mr. Hayashi.
Ken Hayashi, as an individual: First, I would like to thank
everyone for the opportunity to speak before you on this bill. I have been
watching it for a long time and have great interest in the martial arts. I
have been doing it for over 48 years.
I am supportive of the bill. There is one recommendation that I would
like to bring to your attention. The recommendation is under the change of
general penalties under the act. Currently, it is summary conviction. I am
thinking that it might be better, having dealt with some of these issues in
past, if it was a dual procedure offence, and that would give the Crowns the
opportunity to charge either by way of indictment or under summary
Also, having been involved in some of these investigations for
unsanctioned events, under summary conviction there is a six-month statutory
time limit, and that could create a problem, depending on whether we hear
about the events in time or when we hear about them.
I think that is a very important aspect that should be looked at.
I am open for questions.
The Deputy Chair: We will hear from all of the witnesses, and then
throw the floor open for questions.
Not all witnesses are as concise as that. It was an important — profound,
indeed — point.
Patrick Reid, Executive Director, Edmonton Combative Sports
Commission: I have a bit of a longer presentation. You have this
pre-circulated document. This is the only document that I will précis in my
presentation. Dr. DeFreitas and I are pleased to be present to speak to Bill
S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights), sponsored by
I am the Executive Director of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission.
I refer you to my previously circulated handout, and, as I mentioned, it is
the one with the coloured logo on the front. The Edmonton Combative Sports
Commission is a commission of the City Council of Edmonton. It has been
existence since 1920. It was originally called the Edmonton Boxing and
Wrestling Commission. In 2001, the city expanded the mandate of the
commission beyond governing professional boxing and wrestling to also govern
all combative sports, including full- contact karate, muay thai, kickboxing
and mixed martial arts. The commission was renamed the Edmonton Combative
Sports Commission at that time.
The mandate of our commission is similar to the mandate of other
combative sports commissions in Canada. It is to regulate, govern and
control regulated combative sports events and officials in the city of
Edmonton. It includes full power and authority to supervise, regulate,
govern and control all regulated combative sports events held in the city
and to administer a scheme of licensing for regulated combative sports
I have provided you with a list of the sports commissions that currently
regulate combative sports in Canada. There are approximately 20 commissions
regulating combative sports. They are basically two types of commissions in
Canada; there are provincial commissions, as you have heard. My colleague,
Mr. Hayashi, heads up the Ontario provincial commission. There are a few
provinces that chose not to create provincial commissions and instead passed
that jurisdiction to the municipal level.
One of those provinces is Alberta. We have approximately 10 municipal
commissions regulating the sport in 10 cities in this province.
In our capacity of governance, before each event we ensure that all
competitors provide a current negative blood test for HIV, hep B antigen,
hep C and syphilis.
We ensure all competitors have either a MRI or a CAT scan of the head.
They must also pass a 12-lead electrocardiogram, a dilated fundoscopic eye
exam and a general physical exam. All tests are reviewed and must pass by a
physician experienced in combative sports before a license to compete is
No other contact sport in Canada, including professional hockey,
football, rugby, lacrosse, et cetera, demands this level of medical scrutiny
before each competition.
In addition, we require physical tests of each competitor, at the time of
the weigh-in, to ensure there is no injury to hands, arms and legs. For
major events, we arrange for the Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport, whose
headquarters are here in Ottawa, to undertake third-party drug testing.
After each bout, ringside physicians do a medical examination of each
competitor. They provide written medical documentation for follow-up. Every
competitor gets a medical suspension for a period of time that can range
from 7 to 120 days. If a serious injury is suspected, the suspension is
indefinite pending further medical testing.
At this time, we would like to answer the question of why our commission
strongly supports this bill. First, our commission wishes to ensure its
operations and the operations of similar commissions across Canada are in
express alignment with the Criminal Code. Second, our commission wishes to
ensure that the Criminal Code appropriately assigns criminal liability for
relevant unauthorized or improperly authorized conduct. There are many
combative sports that employ kicking or striking as an element of the sport.
As we know, kicking is currently disallowed in the Criminal Code for
Sports that involve kicking or striking include mixed martial arts,
kickboxing, the Olympic sport of tae kwon do, full-contact karate and the
popular Thai sport of muay thai, to name a few. This bill, sponsored by
Senator Runciman, is critically important for us as regulatory commissions
of combative sports in Canada.
The popularity of mixed martial arts, or MMA, is unbelievable. It is
considered the fastest-growing sport in North America. The American
promotion, UFC, and Canadian promotions, like the Maximum Fighting
Championships, stage events that are generationally popular, mainly with our
youth and young adults, across Canada.
According to the present Criminal Code regarding prize fighting,
combative sports other than boxing are viewed by the letter of the law as
illegal due to the kicking or striking nature. However, over the past nine
years and more, police services across Canada have been hesitant to stop any
MMA events. We, too, worry that unsanctioned, non-governed events or
underground events are occurring in increasing numbers and are not
regulated. These unsanctioned events pose terrible medical risks. At this
moment, we are in the middle of expected passage of this bill, and that is a
good thing. From a governance standpoint, we are acutely aware of the
importance of covering off the required approval of kicking and striking. It
has been initially suggested that, by adding the sport of mixed martial
arts, the problem is resolved. We all understand the magnitude of the sport
of mixed martial arts, spearheaded by the American promotion UFC. However,
since Canadian commissions govern and regulate other combative sports, we
respectfully request that the term combative sports either replace the term
MMA or be added each time there is a reference to MMA. For example, perhaps
use the phrase "mixed martial arts/combative sports'' or just the term
If the term "combative sports'' is agreeable, a definition is likely
required. We have respectfully offered a definition for legalists amending
the Criminal Code to consider.
Combative sports, including MMA, are still developing, in some cases in
parallel not only with legislation but also with the governance of the sport
at the local and national level in Canada. Just last month, Industry Canada
authorized a name change of the Canadian Boxing Federation to the Canadian
Combat Sport Federation. This new national body can now take the lead role
in developing standardized rules, regulations and operating procedures for
all combative sport commissions in Canada, with input from the existing
provincial and municipal commissions.
In moving forward, we encourage the Minister of State for Sport, Mr. Bal
Gosal, to write to each combative sport commission in Canada and encourage
them to contribute to the standardization of these regulatory documents and
procedures that all commissions would then follow.
One last and significant issue deals with the fear mongering about some
of the medical issues attached specifically to mixed martial arts. This is a
very topical issue at the moment, due to the spate of injuries witnessed in
what many consider to be another combat sport, ice hockey, in the Stanley
Cup playoffs and current world championships.
However, our evidence-based medical research of injuries sustained in
boxing and MMA in Edmonton, over the past 10 years, illustrates that
injuries in MMA occur less than in the sport of boxing and are comparable to
injuries sustained in other contact sports.
You should also have received a pre-circulated letter from our chief
medical officer, Dr. Shelby Karpman, addressing the injury issue.
Unfortunately, we do not have time to expand on this medical issue in this
time-restricted presentation. However, Dr. Terry DeFreitas, one of our
ringside physicians and the team doctor for Canada's national tae kwon do
team that will compete in the Olympics in London in two months, is here with
me and available to address our sport-injury data in the follow-up time
allotted for questioning.
This ends the formal presentation. I thank you for your attention.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reid.
Dr. Teresa DeFreitas, Sports Medicine Consultant, as an individual:
I am going to refer to a PowerPoint presentation, which you should have.
This is data collected over 10 years, and Dr. Karpman put this together,
along with Mr. Reid. This is a retrospective analysis of injuries. They
recorded the injuries after each fight. We examined both fighters. We put it
on an exam sheet, and those sheets were analyzed over 10 years. It is a
review of boxing and MMA injuries over last 10 years based on the post-fight
medicals. The categories that were selected were none, contusion/abrasion,
laceration, concussion and fracture.
In MMA, we had 882 fighters, 1,119 matches, and in boxing, 490 fighters
with 556 matches. In the boxing, over the 10-year period, the post-fight
medical review brought 259 exams, and 47 per cent had no findings on exam,
contusions were 34 per cent, concussions were at 53 over the 10-year period,
and 9.5 per cent. Keep that number in mind. For lacerations in boxing, 30 of
them were reported, or 5 per cent, and fractures at 4 per cent.
When we looked closer at those injuries, the fractures, of course, in
boxing are mostly of the hand. There were 10 of the hand, three orbital
fractures, fractured nose, ribs. Then there was one of each sort of serious
injuries, what you would consider fractured jaw, biceps rupture, which
requires surgery within the week, and a terrible triad refers to a serious
knee injury, which would not have happened from the opponent but happened
from the athlete moving in an odd direction.
For the MMA, the post-fight medical review brought us no findings, so 40
per cent were examined and did not have a scratch, and then 45 per cent had
contusion/abrasion. There was 50 over a 10-year period with concussion, but
we have to keep in mind the numbers were higher for MMA, and the
lacerations, 62, or 6 per cent, and the fractures at 4 per cent. Their
fractures were higher. They had more fractures. They had more hand
fractures, more nasal fractures, arm and foot fractures.
If you look at the injury rates, this is reported as the number of
injuries, just considering concussion, laceration and fracture, and that
number is 106 over 556, or 19 per cent. We took out the contusion abrasion
ones, because they do not really apply to any serious loss of sport. The MMA
was 153 over 1,019, so 15 per cent for those more serious injuries. Those
are our stats.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of solid studies on the subject. There
is a study by Bledsoe from the Las Vegas MMA injuries, another retrospective
study, 220 fighters with 95 injuries, so they just reported a 43 per cent
rate of injury.
The next study is a little more elegant, Ngai at Johns Hopkins, and that
was a retrospective study. They had 1,270 athletes with 300 injuries, and
they came up with a rate of 23.6. The rate is 23.6 per 100 fight
participants, which is a better statistic because then you can compare it to
other sports. You can say per 100 minutes or per 100 exposures, this is the
rate. That was a good quote for them to provide. They reported a concussion
rate of 15.4 per 1,000 athlete exposures.
The next one was another study by Bledsoe, and that reported an injury
rate of 17 per cent, mostly lacerations and hand injuries. They did not
report the details of the concussions, unfortunately.
I will just give one more, and that is from Australia. What they did in
that particular one was they studied the athletes over a time frame. Most of
these little studies are like a photograph of one fight, but in Australia
they followed the athletes over time. They correlated that the longer you
stay in, the more you get injured, which makes sense. They had 214 injuries
over eight years, and the injury rate was 23.6. The most common injuries
were lacerations and fractures to the hands.
There is a little graph there trying to compare boxing in our reported
stats with the Australian ones and the Nevada ones. They are about
The next slide shows the MMA comparison of injury rates was extremely
high in the Las Vegas one, although it was done much earlier. The study
ended, I think, in 2007. Then you look at those MMAs and the Edmonton ones,
and ours are much lower.
It is a little difficult to interpret it because it is percentage and you
do not know about reporting. I happen to know that from our reporting, we
always see the fighter after each fight, so it is always recorded. I know
that for the stats that we have, in particular in regards to concussion,
lacerations and fractures, we always examine them after, so we know that we
are getting good data. The studies from Las Vegas and Nevada were
retrospective on the fight reports, so they went into the computer and
looked at what was on the record sheet. You could compare them and say they
are the same, but there may be a little bit of discrepancy in the data
because the studies were not done the same way.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge Mr. Reid and Dr. Warren Thirsk,
who was also involved in the data collection over many years.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much indeed.
Senator Runciman: I have known Mr. Hayashi for a number of years,
and certainly his reputation as a strong regulator. This has not been a
recognized sport in Ontario for that many years.
Mr. Hayashi: On January 1, 2011, Ontario legalized mixed martial
arts. Since then, we have had 17 events. The largest UFC in their history,
55,000, was April 30, 2011. They came back on December 10 of the same year
at the Air Canada Centre, which was about 17,000 people, and they have done
a number of other smaller events.
Senator Runciman: How do you monitor these events? Do you attend
yourself? How does the relationship work in terms of the regulator?
Mr. Hayashi: I have not missed an event since I was appointed in
1995. Before that, I was assistant to the commissioner, and I must have done
probably 300 events.
Senator Runciman: You have seen a lot of professional boxing
matches, as well as mixed martial arts.
Mr. Hayashi: Yes.
Senator Runciman: In the limited exposure you have had now, did
you say 17 bouts?
Mr. Hayashi: I was 77 events.
Senator Runciman: How does it compare to boxing in terms of the
potential for serious injury?
Mr. Hayashi: It is no more dangerous than boxing. There are
different types of injuries, lacerations, maybe a little more fractures. The
fighters tend to go to the ground more, whereas in boxing they are taking
more strikes to the head. It balances off, I believe. I absolutely do not
believe it is any more dangerous than boxing.
Senator Runciman: You suggested a change of the general penalties,
and you also referenced unsanctioned events, so I think they are connected,
your suggestion and unsanctioned events. How big a problem is this in
Mr. Hayashi: The unsanctioned events are a bigger problem at the
amateur level. We have sports organizations that are recognized by the
province, and then many organizations do not belong to the amateur sport
organizations. They do not have the risk management policies that the sports
These are the ones I have concerns about, and that is why I am suggesting
that stronger penalties may deter that and enhance the safety of the
fighters. Under the summary conviction, there has been change. I think in
2008 it was changed and a summary conviction is now a maximum up to $5,000
fine or six months in prison; prior to that, it was a $2,000 fine, period.
Senator Runciman: Have you laid charges?
Mr. Hayashi: I have laid charges in the past, probably the only
commission that has laid charges under section 83 of the Criminal Code.
The Deputy Chair: Were they successful?
Mr. Hayashi: Yes, we were.
Senator Runciman: Mr. Reid, how do you feel about this from your
perspective with respect to the need of change of general penalties? Do you
have a view on that?
Mr. Reid: I think anything we do to discourage these underground
or unsanctioned fights would be worthwhile. We know they are actually
significant in number, not only in Canada but across North America. We are
affiliate members, Ontario and ourselves, of the Association of Boxing
Commissions in the U.S., a regulatory body; and if you look at their results
that they list for fighters, there are hundreds and hundreds of
non-sanctioned fighters that we know are in events that require policing.
Penalties, I think, are very important. We have some statutes within our
bylaw where we are allowed to fine or suspend licences if we find people
breaking our regulations. We had an individual who forged blood test results
in order to try and obtain a licence. We caught him, and we suspended him
for a year and issued him a $2,000 fine.
We are on the same page, Mr. Hayashi and I. All of us are on the
regulatory side. We have to be very strong and very severe with this because
it is a consensual violent sport.
Senator Runciman: Dr. DeFreitas, you heard earlier, and I am sure
you are aware, that the Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on
this sport and boxing. From your perspective, how do you view that position?
Dr. DeFreitas: I understand where they started with that, because
they wanted to reduce concussion rates or head injury rates. However, I do
not know who all got to vote on that.
For me, when you watch a sport or you see a sport, these sports will
happen regardless, and there are high-risk sports in all realms — alpine
skiing, aerial. Ski cross is one of the most dangerous sports where there
four people are going down a feature jump all together, and only one or two
make it to the finish line. As you have heard, we have had serious injuries
in the winter sports, deaths and C spine injuries.
For me, banning a sport is not the way to go. I believe that if we are
well represented with safety regulations and with medical presence that we
can make sure these athletes are safe. I have been doing the tae kwon do for
10 years and I have been doing the MMA since 2010. I have found that by
examining the athletes and having a dialogue with them, for the catastrophic
injuries, such as concussion, we at least have the opportunity to detect it.
We at least have the opportunity to mention some preventative measures and
some return-to-play guidelines. To me, the return-to-play guidelines are
crucial in repeat injuries.
If you just completely ban it, I am concerned that it would go
underground or it would go elsewhere and there would be no opportunity for
medical intervention, and the dialogue that I have becomes so important for
me when I am talking to the fighter, and hopefully there is a family member
with them, to educate them in that five-minute period when I am going over
their injuries or their concussions.
I understand what the Canadian Medical Association was trying to do
there, but I do not think it would be effective.
Senator Angus: Would you allow a supplementary very quickly?
The Deputy Chair: A quick one.
Senator Angus: Thank you, chair.
I simply wanted to ask you, ma'am, are you a member of the Canadian
Dr. DeFreitas: Yes.
Senator Angus: Was there any debate or discussion that you are
aware of before this call for a ban?
Dr. DeFreitas: I am sorry, sir; I did not attend that meeting. I
know there was some discussion, but I understand that they had a panel and
then they called for a vote.
Just like many consensus statements we come up with in the medical world,
you have to come to a consensus. Therefore, depending on who you have in the
room, you may have a consensus one way or the other.
Senator Baker: In other words, the input would not have been all
from persons who have the experience you have at ringside.
Dr. DeFreitas: I do not believe so, no.
Senator Baker: There would be very few people who have that
experience as a medical doctor. I respect your opinion. It must be a very
interesting profession that you have.
I am interested, Mr. Hayashi, in your statements concerning summary
conviction. As I recall, the section prior to what is being suggested to be
amended now has just three or four lines in it, and it says that anyone who
conducts a prize fight, which is not authorized now, but anyone who conducts
a prize fight and is a principal or an organizer or who aids and abets, we
will say like a medical doctor at ringside, then that is the commission of
an offence and they could be subjected to punishment by summary conviction.
Then you said that there is only six months to lay the charge and usually it
takes longer to do the investigation. Could you explain? You then said that,
therefore, we should make it a hybrid offence, what we call a hybrid
Mr. Hayashi: Correct. In previous cases with the ministry, we have
had issues where we found out about events late, and because of the
statutory limitations, and the workload of the investigators, sometimes
these events have sort of got put on the backburner, and then they realize,
"Oh, geez, we are running out of time here.'' If the Crowns have the
opportunity to decide which charge to lay, it may allow more opportunity,
because they have many cases as well.
Senator Baker: Yes, so you would be enlarging the offence. You
would be broadening it. I do not think you are suggesting that for a simple
offence, which we would and the general public would regard as being summary
in nature, a relatively minor offence, that you would be able to charge it
as an indictable offence if you ran out of time, past the six months,
although it is only a minor offence. That is not what you meant here?
Mr. Hayashi: That is not what I meant.
Senator Baker: As Mr. Reid pointed out after your comments, the
punishment should be enlarged in certain cases too.
Mr. Hayashi: Yes.
Senator Baker: My main concern in asking this question is where do
these events take place? These are not organized events. Are they in
basements somewhere? Where would they get people to come to these events and
to pay for them?
Mr. Hayashi: Some of them are in rec centres; some of them have
been in backyards.
Senator Baker: Really?
Mr. Hayashi: Yes. York region had an issue with school kids
meeting after school and fighting.
Senator Baker: Organized fighting?
Mr. Hayashi: Yes, organized fighting. You just never know where
they will pop up. Perhaps some of the fight club movies sparked that
Senator Baker: Do you think that these provisions are adequate,
apart from your concern about the summary conviction matter and the time
required? In much of the legislation that goes through now matters can be
prosecuted summarily, but you are given two or three years to lay the charge
in order to have time for adequate investigation and so on, rather than
making it hybrid.
Apart from that, are you pleased with this bill?
Mr. Hayashi: Yes, I am. The Province of Ontario has regulations
for the professional combative sports that no other jurisdiction has. We
require full medicals, MRIs, blood work and eye testing. When any fighter
loses by a TKO or knockout in the province of Ontario, the promoter is
required to pay for the medical tests. They have to put up funds for the
tests that the doctors may order. The fighters have 60 days to get these
tests done and submit them. If the fighter fails to get the tests done
within the 60 days, those costs will be borne by him. That encourages the
fighters to get the tests done. The promoters are making money on the backs
of the fighters and they should have an interest in looking after the health
and safety of the fighters.
It is a unique regulation, of which I am very proud. Also, that
regulation forces the promoters to match the fighters better. This helps
prevent mismatches, because they do not want their fighters to get knocked
out because it will cost them about $1,700 for medical tests, depending on
what tests the doctors order.
In Ontario we are very proud of our health and safety record and the
requirements that we have. Each jurisdiction has its own rules and
regulations. This proposal gives clear guidelines for provincial
regulations. It is clear that the amateur sports organizations would be in
charge, which would force all of the other sanctioning bodies to join the
recognized provincial body, thereby cutting down on the number of events
that are not properly run.
About four years ago, I was asked by the ministry of health promotions to
do health and safety spot checks for them on their amateur combative sports.
I did that for four years and helped them address some of their health and
safety issues and ensure that their ring requirements were being met and
that they were following their own rules and regulations. That went over
very well. They were receptive to it.
Senator Baker: Thank you for your excellent presentations.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for your presentation. It
was very useful. I am very interested in this topic, especially the part on
Dr. DeFreitas, you have been working in sport medicine for a number of
years. I want to talk about sports accidents and deliberate injuries, as
both have always been a part of sports. Many people ski or do downhill
mountain biking, which is also a fairly extreme sport. Those are referred to
as non-combat extreme sports. Skydiving and diving also come to mind. Do
accidents or injuries suffered in those sports compare to what is seen in
boxing or other sports, such as karate or judo? Do combat sports have the
same injury ratio as extreme sports like downhill mountain biking?
Dr. DeFreitas: Unfortunately there is not good reporting data, so
you can take injury rates from one sport and put them beside others. There
have been some studies that put it in the context of injuries per athlete
exposure. There was a study done on concussions in the States that gave
rates. The rate for tae kwon do per 1,000 minutes of exposure is 9.4. The
rate for American football is about the same. For boxing it is a little
higher than that. The MMA data that we have would be higher than tae kwon do
but lower than the boxing data that we have.
The best way to compare the sports is Olympic reporting where each
country is asked to report in the same way. The definition of an injury is
that you lost a day of competition or training. The problem with trying to
compare exactly is that the doctor examining skiers is not doing what I am
doing, and we are not necessarily reporting in the same way.
I participated in some studies with Dr. Ko. She did a fantastic study in
which she had all the concussed athletes examined, and she also had video of
any headshots. They examined and interviewed anyone who got a headshot, so
they did not miss anyone. Often with concussions you can miss people because
you can ask them if they feel okay and they will say, "Yeah, I'm good.'' If
you leave it at that, you are under-reporting.
With this format, knowing what we did with tae kwon do and knowing how it
operates with a medical exam right after, I think we are capturing accurate
data on concussions. So far, I see that the MMA concussion rate is lower
than boxing, and I think there are several reasons for that.
You can lose a fight in MMA by getting your arm locked and you tap out.
You can lose by getting kicked in the knee and you cannot continue. You are
not necessarily ever hit in the head, whereas in boxing it is a given. There
is contact to the head in every round, and you are still standing. I think
that is why there is more concussion in boxing.
The same goes with tae kwon do. In tae kwon do you get more points for a
kick to the head, but it is more difficult to kick the head, so it is easier
to get points by kicking to the body. When you are going to kick to the
head, you are taking a risk because you have to lift up exposing your own
face. When they increased the points in tae kwon to three for a headshot, I
was almost ready to resign, because I thought it was stupid. However, my
colleague, with whom I trained, said that since I am a scientist I should
test whether my assumption is correct. It was incorrect, because it is
harder to get the headshot, but in trying to do so, you leave yourself open.
There are many things to consider in comparing sports. In the Olympic
year we had a death from luge and a spinal cord injury from that type of
In that one year, we did not have any deaths in MMA. Does that tell you
which one is more dangerous? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It is just a
I guess in trying to compare boxing to MMA, it looks to me like MMA's
concussion rate is lower than boxing, comparable to Taekwondo at the adult
Senator White: I have two questions, if I may. The first question,
which you have partially answered, pertains to the number of concussions,
boxers versus MMA. You talk about the constant pounding in boxing, whether
it is three rounds, five rounds, nine rounds, twelve rounds, versus the one
flash strike in MMA that might end a fight. You are talking about the
constant pounding over a longer term with greater effect and impact than the
one strike to the head, or, as you identified, the other ways of losing a
fight. Realistically, in boxing, you will fight to the end or get knocked
out after multiple strikes to the head. Is that what you are saying?
Dr. DeFreitas: Yes.
Senator White: I understand there are some discussions about
removing headgear from amateur boxing in Canada. When I look at amateur
boxing, because we were defining "amateur'' earlier as well, it is
14-year-olds fighting each other. I know Alberta is one of the provinces
that is talking seriously about that. I guess more than anything I wanted
your opinion as to whether or not that is a move that we ought to anticipate
as a positive move in boxing.
Dr. DeFreitas: I am always fighting about that with the teenage
group. We know that teenagers are more susceptible to concussion. In my
mind, in hockey and the combative sports, we should protect them more. I
would not agree with the head gear removal idea just because of the fact
that teenagers are more susceptible to sustained injury from concussion.
Tomorrow I am going to be covering a tae kwon do event in Toronto, and
they want to change the rules so that you can do headshots in 12 to
14-year-olds, because the Americans do it. I said, "Well, we do not
necessarily have to do anything that the Americans do.''
Senator White: Please.
Senator Joyal: I concur.
The Deputy Chair: You have strong backing from the Senate of
Dr. DeFreitas: Thank you. In January, we had no headshots in this
group, and tomorrow we are going to do light contact. I am going to try and
compare the two and say what kind of injuries we sustained and how serious
I am a big advocate of changing the rules for teenagers. For one, they
cannot consent. They really do not understand what they are agreeing to when
they get out there. The other thing is that, from the science, we understand
that the teenage brain is different. If you get a concussion, you can have
longer-term effects, so we need to protect these athletes differently than
I hope that does not happen. I do not know why that is happening in
particular in Alberta, but it is something that I would probably strive to
Senator Joyal: I have a question for each of you. I will start
first with Mr. Hayashi.
In making the recommendation or suggestion that we should change the
nature of the penalty to go from summary conviction to leave the opportunity
for the Crown to go with an indictment, do I understand that you make that
suggestion based on your own experience? Have you seen cases where there was
no prosecution because the six months had lapsed and there was no
Mr. Hayashi: Yes. In the future, moving forward now that MMA is
being legalized and the province has now come out with an amateur
organization called "Kickboxing Ontario'' which is going to form the
amateur MMA, my concern is that there may be other amateur organizations out
there that are not recognized and do not have the risk management in place
that CASK has, the recognized group, and that is my concern. It may just
start to get out of control.
Senator Joyal: To multiply.
Mr. Hayashi: To multiply, exactly.
Senator Joyal: So it is on that basis that you made the suggestion
to us that we should be aware of it.
Mr. Hayashi: Yes, exactly.
Just to expand on the boxing, a lot of the injuries that boxers receive
are not so much from the actual event. It happens while training in the
gyms, where it is not monitored. I know of one athlete that is no longer
fighting. A friend of his was telling me he was 145-pounder fighting
200-pounders in the gym. A lot of these injuries are sustained while
training in the gym. If they start removing headgear, then that would be a
Senator Joyal: Mr. Reid, thank you for your written presentation.
On the third page of your presentation, you requested that the term
"combative sports'' replace the term "MMA.'' "Combative sports'' is much
more generic than "mixed martial arts,'' in my opinion. If we are to change
the term to "combative sports,'' we will have to define combative sports.
The Deputy Chair: He does.
Senator Joyal: Everybody will understand what mixed martial arts,
but combative sport is a generic term.
The Deputy Chair: If you keep going, he offers a definition.
Mr. Reid: Your point is a good one. There are two parts to our
recommendation. One would address the issue that our deputy chair mentioned,
and that is it is not just kicking. It is called striking, and striking is
with the forearm, it is with the elbows, it is with the knees and it is with
the shins. It is not just the feet. As it is written, it says something like
hands and feet.
The Deputy Chair: Fists, hands and feet.
Mr. Reid: Yes. You do not want to get into the anatomy. If you
take that out and just say "combative sports'' and you use the definition
that says it includes boxing, wrestling, submission grappling, martial arts
disciplines, which includes more than MMA, mixed martial arts and all other
combative sports involving striking, wrestling, submission and/or takedowns,
you have it completely covered.
We understand that "mixed martial arts'' came from the UFC because that
is what they do and that is what they call it, but it is kind of like saying
we had a regulation for football and now we are asking for a regulation for
baseball. We are saying, let us have a regulation for all ball sports.
Otherwise, you will come back next year with muay thai. We will come back
the year after with kickboxing. I think it is better to have an
all-encompassing term, because combative sports includes mixed martial arts,
so it will serve the needs of the UFC, if we care about that. However, more
importantly, it would cover the other combative sports that already exist in
Canada, like Taekwondo. Taekwondo is not mixed martial arts. They are
completely different sports, but in combative sports, they are in the same
Senator Joyal: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Senator Joyal, could I sneak in a supplementary
Senator Joyal: Yes, before I go to the doctor.
The Deputy Chair: You will gather that I am not an expert in this
field. I am learning a lot just listening to you. However, in your
definition, I do not know what submission grappling, submissions and
takedowns are, and I am fascinated that striking does not just involve what
most of us would think of, the arms. Submission grappling, submissions,
takedowns. Quickly, what are they?
Mr. Reid: There is striking and grappling. Striking is everything
that happens, basically normally when you are standing, although it can
happen on the ground, but striking involves contact with the hands, contact
with the forearms, contacts with the elbows. It is striking somebody in that
fashion. There are quite a number of body parts that you can strike somebody
Grappling is another more encompassing term, but it relates to wrestling.
It means you are on the floor or you can be in a clinch, but you are
actually in contact and you are grappling.
I used to work at Sport Canada with my colleague Dan Smith. If you are
not into this thing almost as a profession, it is like Greek. When they talk
about grappling and striking, the terms would be acceptable to anyone who is
involved with martial arts.
The Deputy Chair: For the rest of us and for a court ultimately
interpreting the law, what are submissions and takedowns?
Mr. Reid: A submission means that someone is bending a joint to
the point where you tap out. Mr. Hayashi made a very good distinction
between boxing and combative sports. In boxing, the scoring is the head and
the body, so you get hit many times. If you are in the first round, up
against someone bigger and stronger, or if you get hurt early, you are in
trouble because you will get beaten up for about 10 more rounds. If you
throw in the towel and quit, it is almost dishonourable.
The Deputy Chair: That would be a submission?
Mr. Reid: You would be quitting, but it would probably be the
relative end of your career. In mixed martial arts, if someone is dominating
you, they call this "tap out.'' You can physically tap, or you can call
out, "Tap out,'' and it is over. The fighters get up, hug and shake hands.
It is an honourable way to get out of a difficult situation. That is the
difference. You do not have that in boxing. You do not have a way to exit.
The Deputy Chair: Takedowns?
Mr. Reid: Takedown means someone has grabbed you, and you have
both hit the mat. You have both fallen. It is a takedown. It is with
contact. You fall down, and then they try to do jujitsu moves to get into
lock positions or choke positions.
Senator Joyal: While you were explaining, I had all kinds of
images in my head, in various contexts.
I want to come back, Dr. DeFreitas, to your presentation. I thank Senator
White for having raised it. What you presented to us is very well defined in
time, but the injury that someone sustains in those sports is long term. I
do not remember the source in which I read this some months ago, but — and I
am sure you know this in your profession — people who are professional
boxers sustain greater levels of brain damage and brain disease, in the rest
of their lives, than average citizens, for the obvious reasons that you
mentioned. When they train, most of the time they receive shocks to the head
and it will, two or three years later, materialize in some defects of brain
function. I think there have been professional studies on that. I do not
have them at hand and cannot quote them, but it seems to me that it is very
important that, when we try to understand the damage you inflict on the body
of a person in these sports, we have to look into the whole spectrum of
their average life to determine what the physical impact of these sports
really is. In any sport, you can injure yourself. You can play the softest
sport and injure yourself, but, when you compare the average, it seems to me
very limited to say, "Well, we will examine them before and after, and here
are the figures and the reality.'' In my opinion, the reality is not limited
to that period of time. It has to be seen in a much longer period.
I do not challenge your statistics; I think they are fair. They are
corroborated by other sources. However, it seems to me that, if we want to
measure the impact of those sports — MMA and boxing — we have to take that
into account. Again, I do not want to challenge you. I am not a doctor. I do
not have the other statistics to put to you, but it seems to me that it is a
fair approach. I was happy that it was mentioned here that we have to
understand that the person who practises those sports runs a greater risk of
having permanent physical damage than someone who does, say, a more lenient
sport. Let us put it that way.
Dr. DeFreitas: That is a good point. It is something that we were
talking about on the way here. We absolutely need to study the long-term
effects. There are a few studies that I picked up when I was trying to
establish policies for taekwondo because I have been doing it for 10 years,
trying to prove to them that we need to protect our children, et cetera.
There is a study that I read five years ago talking about the long-term
effects of concussion in football players, the NCAA players. With repeat
concussions, there are definitely changes in academic performance. There are
dropouts, et cetera. There is, not just in boxing and MMA but also in the
NFL, a movement to sue former teams for permanent brain damage because of
repeat concussions and because of being, at that time, in the 1970s and
1980s, put back into the game.
Yes, there is a big concern to do with following these people, and we
need to do that as well. However, I do not think it is unique to boxing and
MMA. We need to do that for all the moderate- to high-risk sports.
I think perhaps the brain injuries, particularly in the NFL and boxing,
in the past, happened because the person went back too early. The
Return-to-Play Guidelines have only been around for less than 10 years, so
it would be interesting to take a decade from now and compare it to a decade
from the seventies because perhaps we will be a little better at preserving
brain function with these changes.
Senator Joyal: In my opinion, it is important that those studies
be made because if I had kids of the age to start practising these sports —
and I have to agree that I am responsible for their health — I would like to
know what the long- term consequences could be for them. It is part of the
decision, as a parent, that I would make to let my kid go into those sports
and have the risk, at 25 or 28 or 30, of getting brain damage, permanent eye
damage and so on. I am not a doctor. I cannot make conclusions on this, but
you will understand that it is very important for the public to be well
informed when they decide to let their children practice those sports.
Dr. DeFreitas: Absolutely. I agree.
Senator Unger: Thank you, panel. This has been very interesting.
I, too, am hearing about this firsthand for the first time. My question
concerns all of the medical testing that is done.
Before each event, you ensure that all competitors provide a small
battery of tests. Who pays for that?
Mr. Reid: The individual fighter pays for their own tests. It is a
condition of licensing, but it does not cost the municipality or the
province. If you want to fight and want a licence, you have to pay for those
Senator Unger: And post-fight?
Mr. Reid: Post-fight, our physicians suture ringside. If someone
is a local individual, then their health card covers them if they have to go
to a hospital. Ontario leads the way with post-fight evaluations, in that
they require $1700 per fighter that the promoters pays upfront to ensure
that the serious testing is paid for after an event is over.
Senator Unger: So the promoter is the person who pays pre-fight?
Mr. Reid: Fighter pre-fight, promoter post-fight.
Senator Unger: I think it might have been Mr. Hayashi or yourself
who mentioned the possibility of these fights going underground. This
battery of tests has to be very expensive. In effect, does the possibility
exist that a secondary, underground level will be created by fighters who
cannot afford this?
Mr. Reid: It is not really a medical expense item. How would I say
it? It is like playing hockey. You want to be in a league. You want to be
ranked. You want to be recognized as opposed to someone who plays
recreational hockey, fooling around on a rink. Anyone who is involved in
this sport — because it takes a considerable amount of training to be
competitive at this level — understands. They pay for these medical tests,
and we are there to see that they do those tests.
The training aspect is something that is never controlled in any sport,
whether you are talking boxing or someone who is trying to do aerial skiing
and they are doing jumps in their backyard or on the local ski hill. That is
why we need governing bodies to put down stipulations on training and
I would like Mr. Hayashi to respond as well.
Mr. Hayashi: That is an excellent point. What Mr. Reid is talking
about, the health and safety requirements that we are talking about pertain
to professional athletes. At the amateur level, the testing is almost
nonexistent. You should be aware of that. They do not require CT scans, MRIs
or blood work at the amateur level, so if it is going to go underground it
would be at an amateur level.
At the professional level, these fighters are trying to make money. It is
their living. You will be required to have these tests to participate in any
professional combative sport in the province of Ontario. You are required to
go through a battery of medical tests, but that is not the case in the
amateur side. I have known amateur boxers who have fought 200 bouts and have
not even had an EEG done in the past, as an example. That is an excellent
Senator Unger: It is for elite?
Mr. Hayashi: Yes, that is the difference.
The Deputy Chair: We have time for a very short second round. I
could steal more time to put a question to Dr. DeFreitas. I think you were
here when the earlier witnesses were present. I take your point about there
being a paucity of reliable data to compare between sports, but you know
that the great public concern now has to do with hockey and football because
those are the ones that have been in the news, for tragic reasons. Do you
have any idea, any indicators at all, how combative sports compare with
those two sports, especially for concussions?
Dr. DeFreitas: Yes. The data that I was referring to a little
earlier with the rates, when you do it per 1,000 minutes, the rate of
concussion is highest in boxing. Collegiate football and high school
football are actually higher than tae kwon do, and the data that I have from
this particular one, if you were to convert it to that number it would be
between football and tae kwon do, but I only have these.
The Deputy Chair: That is high school and university football?
Dr. DeFreitas: Yes.
The Deputy Chair: That is not pro football. That would be a little
higher rate, would it not?
Dr. DeFreitas: I would think so.
The Deputy Chair: You do not have anything on hockey?
Dr. DeFreitas: The data was not expressed in that type of format.
There are many great studies on hockey. My son was a participant in one that
is ongoing now about concussions in the midget bantam age group, because for
some reason in Alberta we allow checking at an earlier age and it is not in
other provinces. We are trying to establish which one is better in terms of
lower injury rates.
There are a lot of statistics on the concussion levels in each of those
sports, but I cannot actually tell you percentage- wise compared to MMA. If
you were to go to a group of doctors and ask which sports we have to cover,
which are high risk, they would be hockey, football, boxing, MMA, tae kwon
The Deputy Chair: They are all up there.
Dr. DeFreitas: Equestrian is a high-risk sport.
Senator Joyal: You mean just the practice of the sport or the
Dr. DeFreitas: It is just the event. If you were to cover the
event, you would need more medical coverage for equestrian, hockey,
football, tae kwon do and boxing.
The Deputy Chair: In all of these, whether you get your concussion
in tae kwon do or hockey, it is a concussion and can have very long-lasting
Dr. DeFreitas: Right. The good thing about having a highly
regulated sport is that those return-to-play guidelines can be enforced. In
hockey, at the amateur level, there is no doctor involved. A kid can
accidentally return to a sport the next day.
The Deputy Chair: "I feel fine, mom.''
Dr. DeFreitas: Yes, and if the parents do not know and there is
not a trainer with that particular team, then the kid gets put back in. It
is the same with football. I have been covering a junior football team in
Edmonton for eight years and they cannot go back until I examine them. Prior
to that, they did not have a physician because they just did not have the
money or whatever. I think that many people return because the coach may
pressure them or they want to go ahead themselves.
Mr. Reid: One of my former positions was vice-president of the
Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and I was the general manager of our
world junior team when Eric Lindros and a few other notables were involved.
Probably up until the time of Sidney Crosby's tragic injury, it has been
a problem because the medical staff involved with the teams were not
reporting and not really doing an honest evaluation. A hockey player would
get hurt and you see it if you are watching the Stanley Cup playoffs now;
they get hit, they go down, they shake their head and go back to the bench.
They are not seen by a doctor. The trainer asks them how they feel. They are
completely driven in playoff hockey to get back on the ice.
When Sidney Crosby got injured, it was the first time that the NHL said
team physicians are not allowed to evaluate players on a team that have
concussions or appear to be concussed. They have to be viewed by a third
party physician in a quiet room, not the dressing room, taken away to a
medical room and examined. We are talking 2012 that this is coming about, so
there are lots of hockey players.
We are fortunate to see a number of hockey players donating their brains
to Boston University to have them evaluated. Many of those players went back
and played without these return-to-play guidelines. They were returned by
trainers. They were not seen by doctors.
Hockey is undergoing quite a metamorphosis and unfortunately it took the
top player to get injured. They did not respond when Eric Lindros had to
leave the sport, but they are certainly responding now.
Senator White: You led this perfectly as if we had spoken about it
before. Why is it that we do not force referees in the sport that brings
about the most concussions — hockey — to be trained to the same level to
recognize the injuries that we do in boxing, and that a referee in hockey
would actually order a player off the ice because of what they see in their
eyes, like we do in boxing? Why do we not do that in amateur sport?
Mr. Reid: That is a really good question.
Senator White: An answer is not required.
Mr. Reid: I think the answer is that at hockey games the league
should have an independent orthopedically trained physician who is at the
event and if they see someone being struck or hit the glass or ice or not
even go down but just be hit in a collision, they should be doing those
types of assessments. You need to have an independent third party because
there is a lot of money involved and that is an unfortunate part of
Senator White: I appreciate that. As a kid I boxed and, as you can
tell, I took a few too many shots. The referee looked in my eyes. It did not
matter what my corner said. I was done if the referee said I was done. We
pay referees in Canada from the time they are refereeing seven- and eight-year-olds
and we train them and obligate them to do certain things. I think there is a
level of expertise they need to develop if they want to continue refereeing
when we have identified the injuries coming out of our game, one of our
Mr. Reid: We had an event this past Friday night, Maximum Fighting
Championships. It is on television in HD, and TSN will play it in another
couple of weeks, so you can all see it.
A fighter named Ryan McGillivray, who fought in the UFC, is in the
championship fight. He is in tough; he is hurt. It is five rounds. At the
end of the third round he thinks it has been concussed. His corner is
encouraging him to continue fighting. A referee is trained. The referees
have exit strategies. He went to Ryan in his corner, with the team doctor
beside him, and the team doctor looked at cuts and said that he can probably
continue. The referee said to Ryan, "If you want to continue fighting, you
have to take one step towards me. If you do not step towards me, the doctor
here is cancelling the fight,'' doctor stoppage, and Ryan did not move. The
referee said the fight is over, referee stoppage. They are in partnership.
He is in partnership with the doctor.
The kid ended up going back to the dressing room. After 20 minutes he
passed out. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and they were
concerned about a brain bleed.
It is an illustration of exactly what you are talking about. They have
strategies in MMA to allow someone to honourably get out of a fight because
he would have gone back otherwise.
Senator Joyal: I think the problem would be to start convincing
Don Cherry that health matters.
The Deputy Chair: We have ranged quite a bit beyond the technical
scope of this bill, but for us to understand the context in which this bill
would take effect, it has been not only very interesting but very helpful.
We thank you all very much indeed.