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 adequate.

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 combative sports.

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 Runciman?

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?

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, Senator Joyal.

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 injuries.

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 injuries.

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 rare.

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 Sports Canada.

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 provinces.

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 gentleman's sport?

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 amateur athletes.

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 appearances.

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 could play.

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 on it.

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 advocacy.

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 to hockey?

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 illegal?

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 illegal.

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 are illegal.

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 herring?

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 prizefight definition?

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 Olympic program.

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 permitted.

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 conviction.

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 Senator Runciman.

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 events.

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 administered.

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 prizefights.

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 "combative sports.''

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 comparable.

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 Ontario?

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 organizations have.

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 Medical Association?

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 offence.

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 interest.

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 health.

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 sport.

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 statistic.

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 level.

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 Canada.

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 they were.

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 an adult.

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 prevent.

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 possibility?

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 major concern.

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 umbrella.

Senator Joyal: Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Joyal, could I sneak in a supplementary here?

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 with.

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 medical tests.

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 competition.

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 point.

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 do.

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 long-term impact?

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 effects?

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 professional sport.

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 national sports.

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.

(The committee adjourned.)