June 23, 2014 - 5:44 PM
VERNON - Vernon councillors are backing down on a decision to ban mixed martial arts events.
There’s concern the wording of the ban would prohibit youths from participating in competitions, which was not the initial intent.
“We have many young kids that are involved in various martial arts, almost like gym classes they do downtown,” Coun. Mary Jo O’Keefe says. “They have inter-community competitions with each other so they can get up to the next level.... We don’t want to make it impossible for them to have those events.”
The draft bylaw would prohibit “professional mixed martial arts contests,” a definition O’Keefe says is too broad. Council initially set out to ban MMA contests due to a reported link with organized crime, and to protect the health of its citizens.
Coun. Bob Spiers also opposed the bylaw, which was up for a first reading at Monday's council meeting. He says it wasn’t council’s intention to ban kids from competing in local tournaments, just to prohibit large professional contests.
“I want to make sure that (a youth tournament) isn’t made illegal, not that we’d ever prosecute them (kids),” Spiers says.
Mayor Rob Sawatzky says future discussions will likely revolve around how to regulate the competitions to make them safe for kids.
“I certainly understand why there would be concerns about preventing kids from having a good wholesome competition,” Sawatzky says. “I would be surprised if council doesn’t share the concern that children would be involved in competitions where there are blows to the head. That would be the main reservation I would have.”
Council is postponing its consideration of the bylaw until the next council meeting, when the city's chief administrative officer will provide a report on the definition of a contest.
The MMA community has spoken out about council's push to ban sporting events in the city.
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