Canada Soccer leaders called to testify to MPs on women’s team labour dispute

Click to play video: 'Canadian women’s soccer team playing under pay protest'
Canadian women’s soccer team playing under pay protest
The Canadian women's national soccer team is fighting for the same funding and pay their male counterparts receive. Heather Yourex-West explains how the labour dispute has dragged on for so long, and the support the Canadian women are receiving at home and around the world – Feb 16, 2023

The House of Commons’ heritage committee is inviting the leadership of Canada Soccer to testify in early March, putting the governing body under scrutiny over allegations of unequal treatment of the national women’s soccer team and allegations of sexual abuse within soccer programs.

At a meeting Thursday on the study on Safe Sport in Canada, the committee adopted a motion put forward by NDP MP Peter Julian for a hearing with Canada Soccer’s “current president and CEO.”

The motion allows for a summons to be issued if the invitation is declined.

Nick Bontis is the president of Canada Soccer, and Earl Cochrane is the general secretary.

The motion comes after Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said Monday that the parliamentary committee has already requested the minutes of Canada Soccer’s board and wanted to question the governing body in a future meeting.

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The Canadian women are participating at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Fla., amid an impasse with Canada Soccer.

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The players boycotted practice Saturday and said they would not take part in the tournament until their grievances were addressed. They reluctantly returned to training Sunday after Canada Soccer threatened them with legal action, saying the players were not in a legal position to strike.

The Canadian women are demanding the same backing in preparing for this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand that the men received last year before Qatar, and both the men’s and women’s soccer teams want more transparency when it comes to Canada Soccer’s finances.

Canada Soccer also came under fire at a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its handling of allegations against former U-20 women’s team coach Bob Birarda, who pleaded guilty last February to three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching involving four players.

Former women’s team captain Andrea Neil told members of Parliament that Canada Soccer did not properly handle the players’ allegations and enabled Birarda to continue coaching girls after he was dismissed by both the national sports organization and the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2008.

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“Our national federation had completely failed at safeguarding, irresponsibly shifting his predatory behaviour on,” Neil said.

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