House of Commons Hansard #259 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was witnesses.

Topics

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to add my voice in support of Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. As we have heard from my hon. colleagues, the bill would make important amendments to the witness protection program, which first came into effect in 1996. Before that time, Canada offered witness protection services to those who could provide critical information during a police investigation and court proceedings. However, it was practised on an informal basis. The 1996 act introduced more formality into the process.

As with many laws that have been on the books for a while, the original act is now in need of amendments to reflect our changing environment and to strengthen the protection provided to witnesses, as well as to those who protect them.

As we have heard in the House and at committee, the proposed legislation contains recommendations that have come from a few sources. They include the 2008 report by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the 2010 Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, and stakeholder consultations with the federal departments and agencies, the provinces and law enforcement agencies.

I would like to focus my remarks today on a couple of areas of proposed changes within the bill, which directly address the concerns we heard from our provincial stakeholders.

There are witness protection programs in five provinces, namely Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The federal program differs from the provincial ones in some areas. Typically, the provincial programs are aimed at victims of violence who need support before and during a trial, which could include accompanying the witness to trial, temporary relocation or limited financial support. They have their own administrative criteria and are designed to meet the needs of their own law enforcement agencies.

The decision whether to refer a witness for possible admission into the federal program or provincial program rests with the individual police forces dealing with criminal investigations. They make their decisions on a case by case basis, depending on cost, threat level and the length of time the protection is needed. For complex federal cases, provinces may choose to refer their witnesses for consideration of admission into the federal program.

One of the loudest calls we have had from our provincial counterparts is the need to streamline the current process for obtaining secure identity changes for their protectees. The concern among the provinces is that the RCMP can currently only assist federal protectees for the purpose of obtaining the federal documents required for secure identity changes. What this means is that the provinces must temporarily admit their protectees into the federal witness protection program to allow the RCMP to assist in this process.

Many of our provincial stakeholders have asked that we change the current system, which they have told us can result in time consuming paperwork and delays. We agree. When we are talking about protecting individuals from potentially life-threatening risks, we cannot afford delays in processing their secure identity changes. We also agree that improving federal and provincial collaboration will help us move ahead with a more seamless witness protection service across the board.

As such, under Bill C-51, we propose to streamline this process through a new framework that will allow for provincial programs to be officially designated as witness protection programs. The designation process will work as follows.

First, a provincial authority responsible for the program, such as the attorney general, would make a request to the Minister of Public Safety who, once satisfied that the program has the capacity to protect its witnesses and its information, may recommend to the Governor-in-Council to designate the program. Once the program has been designated, the provincial official will be able to send a request to the RCMP for assistance in obtaining the federal documents required for a secure identity change for a provincial witness without having to first admit the witness into the federal program. Designation would only need to occur once.

I would note that we have also heard calls to remove the RCMP from the process completely so the provinces can request the secure identity documents directly from the federal departments. However, we believe it is more prudent and safer to keep the RCMP as the single point of contact for all document requests of this nature. There are many benefits to keeping the RCMP as a single point of contact. It helps ensure efficiency and enhances the security of the information and the safety of all those involved in the process. For these reasons, Bill C-51 would retain the RCMP as a liaison between the provincial and federal programs for the process of secured identity change.

A second area of change that directly addresses concerns of many of our provincial stakeholders relates to expanding the prohibitions of this program. As it currently stands, the Witness Protection Program Act only protects information about federal protectees. This is a legitimate concern raised by our provincial stakeholders and one which we have addressed in Bill C-51.

Under the proposed changes, the prohibitions of disclosure would be extended to include information about the witnesses, their designated witness protection program, as well as those who provide protection to these witnesses. This prohibition will apply across Canada. I should note these measures have been strongly supported by organizations that represent front-line police officers.

In addition, exceptions to the prohibitions of disclosure would also be clarified, allowing authorities at both the federal and provincial levels to fulfill their mandates, while still being mindful of the need to ensure the safety of protected persons.

At the federal level, this authority is the RCMP commissioner, while at the provincial level it is the official in charge of the designated program. For example, federal agencies will be able to share information about those protected persons who are also offenders being considered for release. At both levels, authorities would have the power to disclose information about protected persons if it was essential for the administration of justice, including if a serious offence were about to be committed.

It is clear that the Witness Protection Program Act is in need of amendments on a number of fronts. Bill C-51 is practical and comprehensive legislation that would do just that.

The provincial programs are a vital part of our network of witness protection in Canada and we are pleased that this bill has received positive response from the attorney generals of Saskatchewan and B.C. as well as the Canadian Police Association.

I am also pleased to hear today in the House that for a change the opposition parties have openly said that they will support the bill.

This legislation sends a clear signal that we are on the right track. I therefore encourage all hon. members to continue their support of the good measures this government brings from time to time.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

As he said, and as we have already indicated, the bill contains enough improvements to the program for the official opposition to support it at third reading, despite our concerns regarding funding.

I wonder if my colleague knows why the bill does not contain more of the recommendations that came out of the Air India inquiry, such as ensuring that the eligibility process is more transparent.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, as recommended in the Air India report, the concerns over objectivity of entrance into the program has been addressed by changing the reporting structure of the witness protection program internally within the RCMP to increase its objectivity and independence.

These changes separate investigations and decisions on admission for the running of the program.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to sit on the public safety committee, and I did hear a lot of the witnesses who came forward, including the police organizations.

Everyone seemed to be very favourable in terms of this bill and what we are bringing forward. I would just like to ask my hon. colleague, the member for Calgary Northeast, a question. He is my brother, actually. Does he in fact believe this is really a very good bill?

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows—my brother from a different mother—our government is committed to providing law enforcement with the tools and resources needed to protect the safety of our families and communities, including an effective witness protection program.

An effective and reliable witness protection program is valuable in the fight against crime, especially organized crime, and terrorism.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I just want to make a comment, because we know that while the Conservatives are late in responding to this growing issue, New Democrats are pleased to see the government listening to our request to expand the witness protection program. It is something we had been requesting when the Liberals were in power, and now the Conservatives are in power. We are glad to see it.

However, just as with any other bill, there is room for improvement. Knowing full well that there is room for improvement, one would think we would want to take this on immediately.

Basically, the bill does not include provisions for an independent agency to operate the program, as recommended in the Air India inquiry report. I am just wondering if my colleague could tell me why that was not included in this bill.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, consultations were made, and amendments are based on all kinds of consultations with the stakeholders, the police associations, other organizations and, specifically, with the victims.

Let me quote what the president of the Canadian Police Association said:

The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and the security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties. Unfortunately, the disclosure of identifying details can present a real danger to police personnel themselves as well as their families, and we appreciate the steps being taken today by the government of Canada to address those concerns. On behalf of the over 50,000 law enforcement personnel that we represent across Canada, we ask that Parliament quickly move to adopt this Bill.

I urge my colleagues on the other side to quickly move on this.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here to debate Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

As many of my colleagues have mentioned, we will support this bill at third reading, but not without reservations, because a number of the questions we raised in committee at second reading remain unanswered.

We see enough progress in this bill to support it. However, it would be nice if the government members, especially those who are making speeches, would answer our questions at third reading. I will come back to this.

The government is relying more and more on the principle of disclosure to obtain information in order to enforce its laws properly. Whether in relation to its tax policies, public health or the criminal justice system, the general public is a valuable ally in helping the government anticipate and manage crisis situations.

The people who witness a wrongdoing play a key role in reporting, solving or preventing an offence or a crime. These people live in the constant fear of reprisal and feel that disclosing what they know will turn their lives upside down. They must be treated with respect, since they are risking a lot to protect others.

That is why this bill has been generally well received. It will better address the needs of these people who often reluctantly become involved in investigations related to national security.

This is somewhat of a delayed reaction from the Conservatives, since the bill was designed in 1985 to address some concerns raised by the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182. I would like to quote one of the commission's findings:

A failure to provide adequate protection for witnesses threatens their safety and, sometimes, their lives. It discourages others from helping intelligence or police agencies. In the end, poorly designed witness protection measures can rob the justice system of crucial assistance.

Better late than never, though. We are happy that the government has listened to our calls to expand the witness protection program.

The ability to protect witnesses was one of the main reasons—one of them—the Air India investigation was mishandled. It was certainly mishandled. One witness, Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the Times of India, a newspaper in British Columbia, was assassinated. This meant that the statement he gave under oath to the RCMP seven years earlier, in 1995, was deemed inadmissible. Other witnesses refused to participate in the investigation in 2007 because they feared for their safety. I do not blame them.

At the time, Justice Major admitted that he was not able to give witnesses the protection they needed. The authorities must understand the importance of these people and the magnitude of what they are doing. Chapter 8 of the commission's report stated:

Witness protection also involves developing a “culture of security” within the institutions that reflects an awareness of the real risks to those who assist the authorities in guarding against terrorism.

A number of recent events have focused attention on the serious problem of information sharing between the various organizations involved in national security activities, including the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, various departments and provincial and local police forces.

This problem was mentioned in the Air India commission report:

The processes and procedures by which decisions are made as to what information should be passed exchanged between the intelligence and law enforcement communities are seriously flawed and require substantial revision.

This problem still exists and is the reason behind this bill's objectives. Witnesses must be guaranteed protection so that information can be gathered and a crisis or crime prevented or managed. The sharing of that information amongst the various intelligence and security forces and governments transcends the whole issue of national security.

In the case of Air India, for example, some testimony was called into question, and various authorities had the different pieces of evidence or testimony in their possession. The commission concluded that:

Government agencies were in possession of significant pieces of information that, taken together, would have led a competent analyst to conclude that Flight 182 was at high risk of being bombed by known Sikh terrorists in June 1985.

The handling of sources and sharing of information is a key element, one that is central to the objective of this bill. Yet, no consideration is given to it in this bill, despite reports such as the Air India commission report, which is more than 20 years old, I might add.

I would like to quote some of the commission's other findings concerning the sharing of information. It is worth quoting them because they are at the heart of the problem that this bill will resolve, albeit quite imperfectly. Here are some excerpts from the commission's report:

The institutional arrangements and practices of information-gathering agencies were wholly deficient in terms of internal and external sharing of information, as well as analysis.

CSIS failed to include important information, such as the Duncan Blast, in the threat assessments it provided to the RCMP and Transport Canada.

The RCMP wasted resources creating a threat assessment structure parallel to CSIS'. The RCMP structure was itself ineffective—it failed to identify, report, and share threat information.

I have some more excerpts from the commission report:

The RCMP failed to transmit the June 1st Telex, warning about the possibility of bombing with time-delayed devices in June 1985, to either CSIS or to Transport Canada.

Excessive secrecy in information sharing prevented any one agency from obtaining all necessary information to assess the threat. Excessive secrecy also prevented those on the frontlines from obtaining information necessary to put in place security measures responsive to the threat.

There was a lack of cooperation and communication within the RCMP and between RCMP, Transport Canada and airlines in relation to airport security.

I will go on with some more excerpts:

Although Air India was operating under an elevated threat level, CP Air (the airline upon which the bomb was loaded in Vancouver) was not informed of this fact and was operating under normal security protocols.

On June 22, 1985, the security level in force at Pearson and Mirabel airports called for the use of an RCMP explosives detection dog (EDD). That weekend, however, all RCMP EDD teams were in Vancouver for training, leaving the Toronto airport without any coverage.

I will close with some other excerpts from the same report:

CSIS often failed to disclose promptly to the RCMP information relevant to the criminal investigation, particularly information from human sources, or it disclosed information without sufficient detail or in a manner that prevented the RCMP from using the information.

CSIS was mesmerized by the mantra that “CSIS doesn’t collect evidence,” and used it to justify the destruction of raw material and information. CSIS erased the tapes that caught coded conversations possibly related to the planning of the bombing, and CSIS investigators destroyed their notes that recorded the information CSIS sources provided in relation to the Air India bombing. Both of these actions compromised the prosecution’s evidentiary position at trial.

The RCMP failed to appropriately protect sources and witnesses.

And finally:

The RCMP, at times, failed to take threats against Tara Singh Hayer seriously.

This sharing of information must occur between the federal and the provincial levels, since many provinces have their own witness protection programs.

Greater collaboration between the two levels of government would not only ensure better service to witnesses and sources, but also provide for more effective management of the intelligence services. Bill C-51 now under discussion would address this issue, but only partly.

From now on, more individuals will be eligible for the program. The bill also provides for recognition of provincial programs in place—meaning that some provisions of the act will apply to these programs. The bill also authorizes the Commissioner of the RCMP to work with the appropriate federal and provincial departments and agencies to facilitate the change of identity of persons admitted to the program. This is great news, as witnesses and sources will not have to submit a second application to the federal program to be eligible. Indeed, their files may simply be transferred between programs.

Despite this important addition, a problem remains. Where a provincial protection program is in place, local police forces may have to cover the costs of the investigation even when that investigation is federal in nature and the RCMP is involved. That is one of our major concerns about this bill. We agree with the spirit of the bill but, if the resources are not available, it will be extremely difficult to move in the right direction. The government is trying to reassure us, but we have still not received clear answers to the many questions that have been asked, particularly those asked by the official opposition.

It is not surprising that, although “the costs of witness protection may impede investigations, particularly for smaller law enforcement agencies”—and that is a direct quote from the RCMP website—Bill C-51 does not provide for any new funding for the program. This issue is not addressed in the bill.

When the bill was introduced in December 2012, the Minister of Public Safety said, “[o]ur Government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. An effective and reliable witness protection program is valuable in the fight against crime, especially organized crime and terrorism”.

We also want citizens to feel safe. Still, I really do not see how the government can claim that the bill will be another instrument to accomplish this, since the program will be expanded but the resources will remain the same. If the Conservatives really want to improve the witness protection program, they must commit more funding in order to achieve their goals.

The opposition has asked many questions of various government spokespeople. We keep coming back to the question of resources. The answers we are getting are not really answers. The government says we should trust it. Apparently, the Canadian Police Association told the government that it has sufficient resources. Nevertheless, local police forces say they do not have the resources they need. The RCMP's website says, and I repeat the quote, “There are instances when the costs of witness protection may impede investigations, particularly for smaller law enforcement agencies.” That is what the RCMP says.

Unfortunately, the government has not allocated additional resources that might make it possible to respond to the RCMP's concern. There may be some former police officers and police chiefs among the Conservative MPs, but that alone does not address the basic question: if there are not enough resources to enforce Bill C-51's provisions and improvements, how can the situation get better? We would like an answer to this question or at least an assurance that the government members will agree to commit more resources if necessary as Bill C-51 is implemented.

Another element I have already mentioned and which is worth repeating concerns the Air India inquiry's recommendations. We have said several times that few of the recommendations in the commission's report have been implemented. One of the primary recommendations from the inquiry was that the process for entering the program be transparent and subject to more rigorous accountability. Bill C-51, which we are currently studying, skips right over that issue.

I hope the government will give us answers to our questions later. That is why we are having this debate.

We all agree, and all parties in the House have already indicated that they would vote in favour of Bill C-51 at third reading, because it is an improvement over the current situation. Still, we would like the government to take our concerns seriously and do something about them.

Having an eligibility process that is more transparent, rigorous and accountable should also be a concern for the government.

We have still heard no answers even though the questions have been repeated over and over. We will continue to debate Bill C-51 this evening. We will continue to ask questions until we get answers from the government.

I have a question that is rather significant. It is possible to have the best intentions in the world and want to improve the situation. However, we are now in a context where the government is making cuts to various services, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Unfortunately that has very negative consequences.

The issue of witness protection and keeping witnesses safe should be taken seriously because these people have often put their lives in danger in order to do their civic duty.

I do not want to see the government strutting about in public, in front of the media, saying that it is taking care of witness safety, that it is looking after victims, and using that as a non-partisan issue when, really, these provisions will have no teeth because there is no money behind them. Money is crucial. In this bill, it is essential to give police forces the resources they need.

We want a commitment, here and now, on these additional resources. If it is not here and now, we would like to have it by the end of the debate.

I eagerly await the questions I will be asked in about an hour, after private members' business.

Safer Witnesses ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques will have three minutes for comments when the House resumes debate on this motion.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 6, 2013, consideration of the motion that Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights), be read the third time and passed.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill S-209, which originated in the Senate, as its number indicates.

This bill is relatively simple. Its purpose is to amend the definition of “prize fight” and expand the list of exceptions to better reflect today's reality. First, prize fights are considered an offence under section 83 of the Criminal Code. Prize fight is defined as follows:

...an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them...

However, there are exceptions. The definition excludes boxing matches between amateur athletes who follow certain rules, namely, those set out by the province in question. The bill goes further in defining a prize fight by adding the use of feet to the definition. It therefore no longer just includes fights in which the combatants use their fists or hands. It also includes fights in which combatants use their feet. The bill also adds a number of items to the list of exceptions, including martial arts.

The bill sets out four new exceptions. Here is the first:

(a) a contest between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee...

For example, this would apply to me. I participate in fencing, which is one of the exceptions. Paragraphs (b) and (c) exclude contests between amateur athletes in a combative sport with fists, hands or feet held in a province if the sport has been designated or authorized by the province.

Of course, not all combative sports, most of which originated in Asia, are part of the Olympic or Paralympic program. Yet, they are still practised in a number of countries.

I will continue reading:

(d) a boxing contest or mixed martial arts contest held in a province with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board, commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the province’s legislature...

Therefore, combative sports on the program of the International Olympic Committee as well as other amateur sports designated by a province or a body appointed by a province will be exempted. These include judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, fencing, tae kwon do, karate, kick-boxing, mixed boxing and mixed martial arts.

The legislative provision is being amended to better reflect what is happening today in the world of combative sports. Prize fights will continue to be illegal. However, the list of exceptions is being expanded, given that this particular provision was last amended in 1934. There is no question that combative sports have evolved considerably since 1934. For instance, prior to 1934, there were no combative sports involving fighting between women. Today, boxing matches feature women.

Furthermore, prior to 1934, while fencing was an Olympic discipline, women were only authorized to use a fencing foil, as it was considered a practice weapon. Today women also fence with a sabre and an épée, although these changes are relatively recent. Clearly, the situation was very different in 1934 from what it is today in 2013.

Also back in 1934, combative sports were limited, at least in Canada, to boxing and wrestling. Over the years, many combative sports have evolved. Judo, karate and tae kwon do have been around in Canada for many years now. Mixed martial arts have also grown in popularity in recent years.

Some MPs even practised martial arts before embarking on their present career. A number of members on both sides of the House have been involved in non-traditional sports.

The member for Yukon and my NDP colleague seated near me are just two of the many members involved in combative sports.

This bill provides exemptions from criminal prosecution for these legitimate sports practised by thousands of Canadians across the country. As I nurse, I think of course about the safety of these sports and the safety of participants. By expanding the list of permitted sports under the prize fighting provisions, we want to ensure that certain safeguards are in place so that the health of practitioners of these sports is protected. This must be one of our priorities.

I will admit that many Canadians are concerned about mixed martial arts. However, aside from the fact that they are widely practised in any case, it is worth noting that they pose far fewer risks for practitioners than other popular sports such as hockey and boxing. In fact, many other entirely legitimate sports result in far more serious injuries than do mixed martial arts and other combative sports.

One of the priorities of combative sport trainers is to ensure that practitioners know how to defend and protect themselves to avoid injury. This is not necessarily taught in non-combative sports because theoretically injuries are not supposed to occur, even though they sometimes do.

Studies have shown that serious head injuries occur less often in mixed martial arts than they do in hockey, for instance. Hockey Canada, which targets youth in particular, recently took steps to reduce the number of head injuries. Specifically, it banned checking at the bantam level. These associations are also slowly working to reduce the number of head injuries. They are mindful of the extent of the problem. I just wanted to point that out.

In addition, the regulations governing these sports have evolved a great deal with a view to better protecting practitioners. These sports, which are governed by associations and agencies, operate within a legal framework. Providing a legal framework at the federal level for these sports to allow them to exist will also make it possible for the provinces to enforce their own regulations, to set rules for these sports and to protect the health and safety of practitioners.

It is important to regulate these sports, not to ban them. To ban them would only lead to more clandestine fights. These types of fights pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of participants. Organizers do not necessarily respect the ground rules, such as the need for a medical team to be on hand to intervene if necessary, the requirement to wear gloves and the ban on hits to the head. The more these combative sports are regulated, the lower the risk of injury to participants.

Therefore, recognizing the popularity of these sports and legalizing and better regulating them benefits everyone. This bill will ensure that provincial governments no longer turn a blind eye to organized martial arts contests. It is important to amend the Criminal Code to eliminate any ambiguity over the legality of these different combative sports, which are growing in popularity in Canada.

May I remind members that this legislation was last amended in 1934. The purpose of this initiative is to update the legal framework governing prize fighting and adapt it to what is happening today in 2013.

That is why I support this bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to a rather pleasant subject. It is not as hard or unsettling as many of the other things we talk about. We can actually enjoy talking about it. It does a lot of good.

Today we are talking about Senate Bill S-209, introduced by Senator Bob Runciman, who was appointed to the Senate as a Conservative on January 29, 2010.

I would say to the members opposite that it is very good of us to consider supporting a bill introduced by a Conservative senator, especially these days.

I find supporting a bill from a Conservative senator a bit hard to swallow, but there is something that makes it a bit easier. It was something the senator said recently. In iPolitics, Mr. Runciman said just two days ago that referring former Senator Duffy's expense claims to the RCMP was the right thing to do. Not bad for a Conservative appointee to the upper chamber. This makes supporting his bill a bit easier to swallow.

We are talking about Bill S-209. The bill summary indicates that the enactment amends the Criminal Code by expanding the list of permitted sports under the prize fighting provisions.

Let us take two minutes to look at the current wording of subsection 83.(1) of the Criminal Code on prize fights, in order to understand what it was and why it is being amended:

83. (1) Every one who

(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,

(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or

(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Not only is prize fighting prohibited, but anyone who encourages it or provides help to a prize fighter is committing a criminal offence, as things stand now.

The second subsection provides the definition of prize fight:

83.(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.

The definition was really rather broad.

Clearly, this bill marks a significant departure from what we had before, that is, prize fights with absolutely no regulations governing them. When I was a kid, this is what we called street fights. Two people agreed to meet at a certain location with witnesses who quite often made bets. The two people would fight with their bare hands. That is prohibited. However, by definition, a boxing match with boxing gloves of a certain weight is allowed, whether it is an amateur or professional fight.

Boxing was once very important to me, but as we know, times change. My grandfather was a trainer at one of the major boxing gyms in Montreal. One of my childhood heroes was Gaétan Hart, who was a Canadian champion. He fought three world championship fights. He was tireless. In an NFB documentary about him, he said the most fascinating thing. He said he would climb into the ring saying, “you will not get my steak.” You would have to have experienced some tough times or come from a poor family, or at least have had a rough couple of weeks, months or years in your life, to understand Gaétan Hart's state of mind as he entered the ring saying that.

He was an inspiration to me. My sons' inspiration is Georges St-Pierre, who is a mixed martial artist. This shows how times and customs change, and it illustrates how combative sports have evolved.

Bill S-209 will allow us to reflect the current reality of combat sports, especially mixed martial arts, by including fights in which combatants use their feet as well as their fists and hands. This will also bring legislation up to date with what is really happening today, that is the organization of fights where boxing gloves are not used, but that are very well supervised. They are no longer street fights.

The NDP will support these changes. I will share our most important arguments with the House, and comment on them.

Mixed martial arts are already legal in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Russia, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, the United States, Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom and other countries; this is not a complete list. Many modern legislatures have already made changes to reflect this reality.

Athletes who practice this sport are subject to regular medical assessments, just like boxers. Modern medical practices now apply to this sport. The difference is that street fights were not supervised previously.

The incidence of head injuries is lower than in boxing, and is comparable to other contact sports, such as hockey. I believe that this is the most solid and clear argument.

There are fewer knockouts in mixed martial arts contests than in boxing matches or hockey games. In a number of sports, concussions were not considered to have long-term effects. In the past few years, we have learned how harmful they can be in the medium to long term. Previously, young men were told to pick themselves up and get back on the rink or in the ring.

Even the rules for amateur boxing are being questioned as a direct result of the situation we are discussing. Some people believed that young people were better protected because boxing helmets and gloves were heavier. However, over time, we have come to realize that the weight of the helmet increases the harm caused by a blow to the head. That is surprising.

When people engage in a sport without protection—such as a helmet or gloves—and when there are clear regulations and doctors and coaches are present, the result is surprising. It is sometimes hard to watch, because you can see blood coming out of someone's nose. It is startling to see. However, these people receive fewer injuries and concussions than people who play sports such as hockey or boxing, two more popular sports. Those are some of the NDP's main arguments.

Another point that will surely please my colleagues opposite—I think this will get some applause—is that Canada is a growing market and this generates significant economic spinoffs for the country. This is yet another example of how the NDP supports economic and market development.

I will wait for the applause. I guess I will have to wait for another day. I do not think a single member opposite is listening to my speech in French, since they do not have their earpieces in to listen to the translation. They do not care about my speech at all.

Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia all have legislation that legalizes mixed martial arts at the provincial level. It is important to note that the provinces are responsible for regulating these sports. They are already updating their regulations to allow for mixed martial arts.

In Quebec, the Fédération québécoise de boxe mixte ou d'arts martiaux mixte amateur has sanctioned more than 324 competitions. More than 3,405 mixed martial arts fights have taken place without any serious injury or accident. We are talking about more than 3,000 fights under the regulatory regime of Quebec alone. Not a single serious accident has occurred. If we looked at the same number of boxing matches, the results would be far different and much more worrisome.

The NDP believes that we need a clear, updated federal legal framework for mixed martial arts so that the provinces can enforce their own regulations for the sport and ensure that participants are safe and secure.

That is the NDP's position.

Dr. Teresa DeFreitas, a sports medicine consultant, says that banning a sport is not the way to go, and she thinks that if we are well represented with safety regulations and with medical presence we can—

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Barry Devolin) Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer a few remarks on Bill S-209, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).

It is certainly an item that requires some attention, as the rules governing prize fights have not been updated since 1934. In that time, much has changed with respect to fighting sports, and the current legislation really does not reflect what is happening in Canada today.

Under the Criminal Code as it stands, boxing is the only combative sport allowed, and even that is limited to certain circumstances. There is no way parliamentarians almost 80 years ago could have foreseen the popularity of fighting sports, or the many new forms that have evolved from more traditional disciplines, so there are a number of compelling reasons to update the Criminal Code to reflect the modern reality of sports and how that relates to prize fights.

In fact, if we were not engaged in this process, we would admit to turning a blind eye to what these contests really are. This would mean that the Criminal Code would have a widely acknowledged gap between the law and enforcement, which would raise questions about which other sections of the Code were open to a similar interpretation.

It is far better to address the problem rather than to allow an acknowledged gap in law and enforcement to undermine the legitimacy of other laws. It is a headache we can avoid and are in the process of doing.

Also, we should consider the implications from the perspective of the people who organize and/or participate in sports such as mixed martial arts, commonly referred to as MMA. Updating the Criminal Code will do away with the degree of uncertainty they work within as well, so there is no doubt that it is time for this House to address these items. Fortunately, the bill strikes the right balance, which allows provinces and municipalities or designated regulatory bodies, such as an athletic commission, to allow MMA, as defined by the bill, in their territory without breaching the Criminal Code.

What exactly does the bill do? First, prize fights will remain illegal in Canada. The bill goes further in defining a prize fight by adding “feet” to the definition, to include fights in which the combatants use their feet as well as their fists and hands. The bill then lists four exceptions to the definition of prize fights. These exceptions are not prize fights, but rather authorized combative sports.

The first is contests between amateur athletes participating in sports on the program of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee. This exception covers sports including boxing, fencing, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling and tae kwon do.

The second and third exceptions are for contests between amateur athletes in sports designated by the province or a body appointed by the province. These exceptions cover sports such as karate, kick-boxing and mixed boxing, depending on the province.

The fourth and final exception covers professional contests, and states that they are exempted from the prize fight ban if, and only if, the fight is:

held...with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board, commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the province’s legislature for the control of sport within the province.

It is important to note that a number of provinces such as Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, as well as municipalities such as Edmonton and Calgary have already moved on this front and have changed their definition of combat sports in order to allow MMA. When we pass the bill, Parliament will simply be updating the Criminal Code to make it consistent with the laws in these places.

Also, it is important to note that no province or municipality, depending on which level of government regulates combative sports in that province, will be obliged to allow MMA. At the end of the day the choice still rests with them, which I believe most people would feel is appropriate.

Even those who are not fans of MMA will know the popularity of the sport has grown significantly and quickly in Canada.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, is the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world. Many proud Canadians are aware that Georges St-Pierre, one of the biggest stars in UFC and the current welterweight champion, comes from Saint-Isidore, Quebec. He has won all but two of his 26 MMA contests and was named the Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

However, while Georges St-Pierre may be the most renowned Canadian in UFC, he is not alone and is inspiring a generation of athletes. Some of them will go on to compete in the ring, but an incredible number of people take advantage of the training regimes for these fighters and it has become a popular form of recreational exercise. It allows people to be active and challenge themselves in ways that are fun, while emulating some of the things that popular athletes are doing.

To put this into perspective and to show how widespread this phenomenon is becoming, there is a young volunteer in my office who comes from Little Rapids, which is a small town just north of Thessalon in the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. She is a whip smart university student who has taken up kick-boxing for exercise. She is not looking to compete in any fights, but assures me it is a fantastic form of exercise. However, there are legitimate concerns about the increased popularity of MMA as well.

The risk of concussion definitely increases as an individual goes from training into an actual fight. However, concussions can occur in any kind of sport. We want to ensure that the governing bodies of all sports take the risk of injury seriously and manage the risk of concussion meaningfully.

My colleague, the member for Sudbury, has done great work on concussions. He himself has introduced a private member’s bill to address the concussion epidemic by establishing a system for collecting data on sports injuries, rules governing concussions and standards for the education and training of coaches. This data collection system would provide financial incentives to assist amateur sports organizations in introducing the proposed protocols.

I encourage all members to familiarize themselves with this bill and to vote for it.

The member for Sudbury assures me that UFC has some of the best protocols for concussion testing in any of the professional sports and the MMA has a lower rate of knockouts than boxing, which means there is a reduced risk of traumatic head injury. In fact, I understand that there are studies that show that the rate of concussions in MMA is more in line with that of hockey or football than with boxing. With that in mind, this bill would create a federal framework that would allow provinces to apply their own regulations, with the goal of better regulating the sport and ensuring the health and safety of its athletes.

When the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard from Dr. Teresa DeFreitas, a sports medicine consultant on the subject, she had this to say:

—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 believe it is an appropriate position that we have seen many instances of sports adjusting their regulations to create safer environments for the athletes. Just last week, we witnessed Hockey Canada remove bodychecking at the peewee level, which is hoped to limit injuries in young hockey players in the age group that has perhaps the widest range of size. Anyone who has watched a peewee game will notice that some players are still boys and some have developed to the size of young men. I think Hockey Canada's decision acknowledged that the potential for risk in this age group outweighed the benefits of allowing these players to develop the skills related to checking. Time will tell what the effects of this change are, but it certainly illustrates Dr. DeFreitas' point rather well.

In conclusion, I am happy to add my support to this bill. By updating the Criminal Code, we are acknowledging the reality of what is happening across Canada while ensuring that the provinces have the jurisdictional right to regulate combat sports. It is the right thing to do and I urge all MPs to support this bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I admit I am particularly pleased and happy to rise in the House this evening to contribute to a debate on Bill S-209 because this is a golden opportunity to talk about one of my passions, Meibukan karate, an art that I have practised for 25 years and that I teach to children in my riding. What a coincidence that I will be giving a course at the Cascades Sports Club in Chelsea this evening.

However, even though I am the sensei of a karate dojo, I admit I hesitated for a long time to support this bill. Some may find that strange, but the fact that I practise martial arts does not necessarily mean I automatically support professional combative sports or that I support a bill that will have the effect of enabling professional mixed martial arts and MMA fights to spread more easily.

I would inform the House that there is a significant difference between the sports approach to martial arts and the traditional approach. A distinction must be drawn between a sport and an art. I follow the traditional and most ancient path in martial arts. Like many karatekas, I am guided by moral and spiritual principles. Those principles have been left to us by the grand masters of the past. Being a disciple of the way of the warrior, I am required to observe them. Grand master Miyagi Chojun Sensei, the sensei of my grand master, Meitoku Yagi, and the founder of the Goju-Ryu style of karate, wrote the following to his students before he died: "Strike no one. Let no one strike you. No incident should occur. These are the fundamental laws of my teaching."

Gichin Funakoshi, grand master of the Shotokan style of karate, has left us 20 principles, many of which are of a moral nature, such as: never forget that karate begins and ends with respect; there is no first attack in karate; karate forges honesty and promotes mental technique; karate is the journey of an entire lifetime; and constantly polish your mind.

It is important to note that the opponent in traditional martial arts is not others or a competitor, but oneself: our pride, our self-esteem, our vulgarity and our immorality.

In the traditional approach, martial arts are as much a quest for self-improvement as for physical or competitive improvement. As a result of that approach, I admit I initially found the sport of MMA violent and vulgar, unworthy of the noble values I had learned in the martial arts and of the way of the warrior, which I strove and still strive to follow.

Today, however, I am pleased to say that I have changed my mind because the sport has changed considerably, and athletes such as Canadian Georges St-Pierre, or GSP, have become excellent role models for young people who practise martial arts. I have also had the opportunity to associate with and teach several MMA athletes, and I have observed their respect for the traditional martial arts.

However, even though I am delighted that the sport has become healthier, I want to say that my first responsibility as a member of Parliament is to protect the safety of Canadians and athletes involved in combative sports, not to promote one sport or another. It is with that in mind that I am contributing to this debate today

Professional boxing is already legal, and concussions and their impact on the health of boxers are proven facts. A legitimate question therefore arises: is the sport of MMA more dangerous than boxing?

I am pleased to learn that the answer is no. In the area of head injuries and concussions, the sport of MMA fighting is comparable to boxing, the only sport excluded from the current Criminal Code definition of “prize fight”. Knockout rates are lower in MMA competitions than in boxing, a fact that suggests a lower risk of traumatic brain injury in MMA fights than in other combative sports.

The very nature of the discipline, in which, unlike in boxing, a fight can be terminated otherwise than by a blow to the head, including by means of submission techniques, also results in lower rates of traumatic brain injury per competition. That is good news.

Furthermore, the gloves used in MMA are less substantial and lighter, which significantly reduces the number of knockouts and the after-effects of concussions for MMA athletes.

It is also important to point out that experts say that in the field of sports regulation and in medical terms, the practice of mixed martial arts is now subject to good oversight. Medically, I am happy to say that this sport has significantly cleaned up its practices and now uses the highest standards in the combative sports industry world. I personally know that athletes who practise this sport are subject to ongoing medical assessments, just as in boxing and in other sports.

Medically, and specifically with regard to concussions and the return of competitors to competition, mixed martial arts combative sports are now also subject to strict provincial regulations. For example, Ontario has regulations on non-issuance and the suspension of licences when medical requirements are not respected.

The City of Edmonton, for example, via the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission, also has strict medical regulations for mixed martial arts combative sports. Therefore, on the basis of safety, there are good reasons to change the existing law. It is truly bad that section 83(2) of the Criminal Code concerning prize fights has not been amended since 1934.

Bill S-209 would modernize the definition of prize fighting and would expand the exemptions to the definition of prize fighting to reflect today's reality and, among other things, would allow for better legal oversight at the provincial level of mixed martial arts contests everywhere in Canada. The bill would allow Canadians to enjoy mixed martial arts by changing the law in two important ways.

First, Bill S-209 would amend the definition of prize fighting by adding “feet” to the definition of prize fight. The amendment reads as follows: ““Prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet...”. The addition of feet would expand the definition of prize fighting to reflect the reality of combative sports today.

Second, Bill S-209 would expand the exemptions to the definition of prize fighting to make Olympic combative sports like boxing, fencing, wrestling, free-style combat, judo or tae kwon do legal. However, mixed martial arts or MMA, a combative sport that emerged some 20 years ago, would also be exempted and is becoming rapidly popular, both in Canada and internationally.

The regulation of mixed martial arts, as I said, falls under provincial jurisdiction, but Bill S-209, by establishing a clear, updated legal framework and applying it nationally, would allow the provinces to better regulate this emerging sport throughout the country.

Canadians, whether as athletes or supporters, have fully participated in the emergence of this new sport. Canadian mixed martial arts athletes are among the best in the world. Mixed martial arts events in Canada now draw record crowds and provide significant economic benefits for the provinces and towns that host them.

The NDP therefore wants to allow this sport to benefit from this clear updated legal framework at the federal level so that provinces—and it is important to point out that it is the provinces that will be deciding—can apply their own regulations with the goal of better regulating this sport and ensuring the health and safety of its athletes.

This is why I am happy to rise in this chamber and support the bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, like many Canadians, I have some reservations about this kind of sport. The glorified violence in combat sports, such as boxing or extreme fighting, has a social cost.

In addition, it is not a hot topic in Canadian law, even though the popularity of prize fighting is on the rise and it occasionally has an impact on the health and safety of our athletes.

Prize fights are illegal in Canada, but the context has changed. It is our duty as legislators to look into the issues that have an impact on Canada’s ever-evolving society.

We study and examine the issues and we make suggestions about the best way to remedy these problems with appropriate bills. Bill S-209 aims at making the necessary changes to the definition of “prize fight” and the associated exceptions to reflect the reality of combat sports today.

The bill contains provisions aimed at decreasing the risk of head injury and concussion. It also broadens the exceptions to the definition of prize fight to legalize Olympic combat sports such as boxing, fencing, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, and judo, as well as mixed martial arts, a combat sport that appeared about 20 years ago and is rapidly growing both in Canada and around the world. Mixed martial arts is generally defined as a combat sport in which a number of different fighting techniques are permitted and used.

We are supporting this bill at third reading for the following reasons: Bill S-209 will update the definition of “prize fight” and the exceptions to it set out in the Criminal Code; and it will give the provinces and designated monitoring bodies a clear legal framework for holding sport contests.

Tom Wright, Director of Operations for UFC Canada, has commented on this issue, and I quote: “We are now regulated either provincially or municipally in seven of our 10 provinces and the three territories. We are regulated in 46 of the 48 states…. [B]ecause of section 83(2) of the Criminal Code there is this ambiguity—a lack of clarity—as it relates to the definition of prizefighting.”

Under the current definition of “prize fight” in section 83 of the Criminal Code, only boxing is permitted and only under certain circumstances. This definition was drafted in 1934 and does not reflect the current reality and state of combat sports.

The establishment of a clear legal framework throughout the country would help the provinces better regulate this growing sport. It would ultimately be up to the provinces to decide whether this type of sporting event should be permitted or not within their province. Regulating mixed martial arts would be an area of provincial jurisdiction.

Bill S-209 will strengthen the power of the provinces to regulate this kind of fight, something that is still illegal at the federal level.

It is important to note that, unlike contact sports such as hockey and football, combative sports are regulated by third parties, such as the provinces or medical specialists, and not by the sport itself. The licensing considerations are strictly controlled by the province or the authority it designates for this purpose.

We want to allow provincial and municipal governments to act in harmony with their counterparts because right now every province operates in isolation to some extent.

A number of provinces, including Quebec, already have clear regulations. Prize fighting events are held in Quebec as the regulations are already in place, and these events are very popular. However, this is not the case in all provinces. The Criminal Code must be amended to get rid of these grey areas.

Across the country the situation is as follows: Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have regulations that legalize mixed martial arts within the province. British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and the three territories delegate responsibility for prize fights to the municipalities. Finally, discussions are under way in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island to adopt regulations that are similar to those in Quebec.

Canadians, whether they are athletes or fans, are full participants in the emergence of this sport. Canadian mixed martial arts fighters are among the best in the world. One of them is Georges St-Pierre, the UFC champion from Montreal. He is probably the best-known athlete in the sport. He once said he was not fighting to be a champion, but to leave a legacy.

This is exactly what Bill S-209 will do. If there are some mixed martial artists watching our debate this evening, I would like to congratulate the athletes and their coaches, families and friends who are working hard to protect the health and safety of the athletes who practise the sport.

Mixed martial arts matches in Canada draw record crowds and have a substantial economic impact on the provinces and cities that welcome them. We want to allow this sport to benefit from a clear and up-to-date legal framework at the federal level so that the provinces can enforce their own regulations, for properly controlling the sport and protecting the health and safety of the athletes.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

With his five-minute right of reply, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, as has already been stated in the House, this bill is not revolutionary, yet it is an important piece of legislation. It has been abundantly clear that we need to modernize our Criminal Code on prizefighting, since the provisions related to this issue have not been updated since 1934. Some combat sports, such as tae kwon do, are already sanctioned in Olympic competitions yet are still technically illegal in Canada, even though provinces have applied creative interpretation of the law in order to allow these sports to be practised by Canadians.

We do know that some Canadians have concerns about combat sports. For example, during justice committee hearings on this bill, we heard the Canadian Medical Association representative tell us about its opposition to combat sports in general, while at the same time we heard testimony from another doctor telling us he is supportive of combative sports as long as they are properly regulated. Therefore, as parliamentarians, our focus should be to make sure these sports ensure the security of the fighters.

When testifying before the committee, a Canadian Medical Association representative stated that no studies exist that have shown mixed martial arts to be more dangerous than other combat sports. What we do know is that there are some studies that show that MMA competitions cause fewer severe injuries than other contact sports such as boxing. The reason for this is simple: MMA participants can perform various submission manoeuvres, which cause their opponents to tap out before they suffer substantial injuries. In boxing, the only way to win before time expires is by knockout or technical knockout, which is why boxers often deliver or receive hundreds of punches to the head in a single competition. MMA requires a more cautious approach than boxing because, in addition to defending against direct strikes, MMA fighters must also defend against being taken down by wrestling manoeuvres and being caught in submission or choke holds. As a result, boxing has higher knockout rates than MMA, which also means that mixed martial arts participants are less likely to suffer brain injuries than boxers.

This has been confirmed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University who published an article in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2006, which compared the wounds sustained during different types of sports. Their conclusions were that minor injuries sustained in MMA, such as facial lacerations and broken noses, are overall similar to injuries sustained in boxing. The study also suggested that the risk of brain damage is lower in MMA than in boxing, kick-boxing and other similar combat sports because MMA contests end with a knockout less frequently.

We know that mixed martial arts are not more dangerous than other combat sports. We know that other popular sports, such as karate and tae kwon do, are practised by millions of Canadians including children, yet given this knowledge, what these sports all have in common is that they are officially not legal according to the Canadian Criminal Code.

Does this mean that millions of Canadians are criminals? Such an assertion is laughable. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure the laws that govern our society evolve to reflect the reality of the times in which we live, which is why it is time for us to modernize the prizefighting provisions in our Criminal Code.

It is also important to mention the economic aspect. Mixed martial arts are extremely popular and will likely continue to grow in popularity in coming years. Canadians already represent a quarter of the global fan base. Organizers of UFC, the largest mixed martial arts competition, love Canada because they can fill the stadiums so easily.

There is every indication that Canada will host more and more competitions in the future. There is therefore a great deal of potential for tourism spinoffs here. By modernizing the Criminal Code, we are removing an obstacle to the development of this industry in Canada, without necessarily promoting combat sports.

The point of this bill is not to encourage or dissuade Canadians from participating in the sport of mixed martial arts, tae kwon do, karate or judo, Canadians are smart enough to decide that for themselves. The bill simply seeks to clarify the law so that Canadians can participate in these sports safely and legally by giving the provinces proper tools to regulate these popular sports, which is why I invite all my colleagues to vote in favour of passing this bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.