Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Apr. 5, 2010)

All too typical a response

  By John Martin


The controversy over the cancelled mixed martial arts (MMA) trade show, originally scheduled for the Abbotsford Tradex, speaks to something we should be quite concerned about. I'm not about to second-guess the mayor who cites public safety as the reason behind the decision to pull the plug on the event. Given the ever-increasing propensity for gang members to confront one another in public settings, often with disastrous outcomes, cancelling the show may very well have been the responsible thing to do.

Still, the event would likely have been extremely well attended with the overwhelming majority of attendees comprised of law-abiding citizens on their best behaviour.  Mixed martial arts is a huge and legitimate sport enjoyed by millions. Personally, I jumped on the MMA bandwagon with the very first Ultimate Fighting Championship event and have been a casual fan ever since. And while I can empathize with the mayor's difficult choice, this incident is symbolic of a disturbing trend.

It appears that all too often the masses are forced to endure limitations on their freedoms, activities and pursuits as a consequence of a flawed system that is unable or unwilling to deal with the serious issues. Even when convicted of dozens of property crimes, judges typically refuse to send offenders behind bars, so we instead, must contract security companies to install steel bars on our windows. How twisted that it's the law-abiding citizenry that must peer through bars to catch a glimpse of the outdoors.

Car thieves are viewed by the courts as mere joy riding, mischief-makers, so it's up to us to install security systems and pay higher insurance premiums. Legislation is on its way that will criminalize the ritual of stopping for a couple drinks on the way home from work. Of course, repeat drinking and driving offenders who blow three and four times the legal limit will continue to be allowed to drive following a brief suspension. Rather than go after the worst drivers and quadruple their insurance rates, ICBC dings us all on account of these menaces--even those with decades of infraction free driving. I've long lost track of how many summer festivals and celebrations have been cancelled in the province to address the behaviour of a fraction of partygoers.

Legislators and policy makers have always found it convenient and practical to address a problem, not by dealing directly with it, but by targeting the entire population. Cancelling the mixed martial arts trade show is simply an example of more of the same. It's no secret that MMA attracts more than its share of shady characters. But this is nothing new. Members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have long been a fixture at local kickboxing cards. Mafia types are frequently seated ringside at Las Vegas world title boxing matches. Certain people have always been drawn to contact sports.

Incidentally, the Vancouver Sun's Kim Bolan, far and away the country's best crime reporter, blogged about sightings of some Independent Soldiers with box tickets for the Canada-USA men's hockey game during the 2010 Olympics. Shouldn't this observation similarly characterize those who take in Olympic hockey?

Shutting down a wildly popular sandcastle competition or pulling the plug on a martial arts exhibition may be the quick and easy way to avert problems. But it's also indicative of a sense of failure and resignation of how helpless we've become. And that should sadden us all.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


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