The event was to be held at Montreal’s Pierre Charbonneau Centre and 240 athletes were registered to participate. Some registrants were as young as nine years of age.
Benoit Boiselle, a spokesman for the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM), said the event
was not sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and as such, violated Section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code. Montreal police received a legal opinion the fighting was illegal and they were prepared to arrest the participants, the organizers and even some others who would be present. Local prosecutors were prepared to prosecute those who would have been arrested.
Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada
makes prize fighting illegal. Anyone who participates, organizes or even those who assist the participants such as umpires or doctors is guilty of an offence punishable by way of summary conviction (the equivalent of a misdemeanor under American law).
Prize fighting is defined as a fight between two persons who have arranged to fight beforehand. To constitute an offence, the encounter must involve the use of hands, fists or feet.
One exception is a fight is not illegal if it is sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, (IOC) and permission is granted by the lieutenant-governor of the province in which it is being held. A fight is also not illegal if it is sanctioned by a commission, athletic board or other similar body that has been given the power to make such decisions under provincial law. The organizers conceded permission was not obtained by the IOC or any provincial body. But they claim Brazilian jiu-jitsu does not fall under te definition of prize fighting.
Organizers claim tournament does not violate the Criminal Code
The event was being put on by
the Canada Pro Jiu-Jitsu Committee along with the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation. Participants who qualified at the competition would have received an all-expenses-paid trip to the UAE to compete there. But all of this is now on hold.
The sport to be engaged in at the competition was Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Unlike Japanese jiu-jitsu or what is commonly referred to as jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-Jitsu does not involve strikes using fists, hands or feet. As a result, it is not the type of fighting defined in the Criminal Code.
Organizer Danny An Khoi Vu said
, “For us it was a huge shock because it was never a problem before. We didn’t think it could be a problem.” Brazilian jiu-jitsu events have been held in Montreal in the past without encountering any legal problems.
Organizers believed the legal opinion obtained by the police and prosecutors confused Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Japanese jiu-jitsu that does involve kicking and punching. The event was finally called off after organizers were unsuccessful in explaining the difference to the Montreal authorities.
The competition has been postponed until March 5 and organizers are looking for a new venue where the police and local officials will allow it to be held. Participants must re-register and those who cannot take part in the March 5 competition will receive a refund of registration fees they paid.