Quebec Karate Tournament Canceled After Province Lawyers Realize It Was Illegal

As head instructor at the Quebec Karate Center of Excellence, Francois Persico is not one to be caught off guard, but the abrupt cancellation of a major martial arts competition this weekend was a gust of wind.

« It hit us, really by surprise, » Persico said.

Karate Quebec announced Thursday that the Quebec Cup has been postponed due to « confusion in the interpretation and application of the Criminal Code » which makes it illegal to compete in karate without a provincial decree.

The weekend competition in Montreal was to serve as the selection event for the Canada Games.

However, the sport no longer benefits from an exemption under the Code since karate is not on the Olympic program for the Paris 2024 Games, Karate Quebec said in a statement Thursday.

Although the practice of the sport is legal, the removal of the Olympic exemption and the absence of a decree means that a competition could expose the organizers, stakeholders and athletes involved in the so-called fights to the risk of infringements punishable, the association said.

Frustrated athletes, coaches

« The impact is huge, » said Persico, who will travel to Turkey next week to accompany the national team to the world junior championships.

Normally, the Quebec event would help prepare athletes for international competition.

Persico has an upcoming tournament at his own center, and that too could be pushed back, but he is confident that the province, working closely with Karate Quebec, will soon find a solution.

Francois Persico, head instructor at the Quebec Karate Center of Excellence, says the athletes continue to train and prepare for the next competition. (John Ngala/CBC)

The president of Karate Quebec, Stéphane Rivest, also remains hopeful. He said his organization had been working with government lawyers since contacting the matter on September 30.

But progress has been slower than expected, given recent provincial elections and upcoming cabinet appointments, according to the organization.

« Our athletes are frustrated and our members and coaches are frustrated with the situation, » Rivest said.

The Department of Education’s Recreation and Sports Safety Department is working with the agency to find « various possible solutions, » government spokesman Bryan St-Louis said in an email Thursday.

Negotiations continue, athletes train

Meanwhile, Rivest said the sport is still a member of the Olympic Movement and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and is included in major multi-sport events outside of the Summer Games.

The national federation and the COC have reached out to offer their support, he said.

The 16 and 17 age categories of the postponed event were to be used as qualifiers for the Canada Games next year. Rivest said the sport is essentially non-contact at the junior level, with only « skin touch » allowed.

« That’s when we get into the pricing issue. It’s like, ‘Really?' »

Light contact is tolerated for adult competitors at events such as the Coupe du Québec. Excessive contact is penalized.

Regardless of the postponed event, Persico said he isn’t giving up and neither are his young athletes.

« We are fighters. We are karatekas, » he said. « So we go on and wait for the next fight. That’s all we do. »

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