MPs summon Canada Soccer officials to testify about unequal treatment, abuse in programs
Sports governing body under scrutiny in wake of threatened strike by women's team
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, which is the de facto CEO.
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.
'We're going to continue the fight'
Canada captain Christine Sinclair welcomes any help.
"I think there's quite a few avenues," she said after Canada's 2-0 loss to the U.S. on Thursday at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Fla. "Honestly as players, we just want it fixed — whether that's with the help of government, whether that's just the [Canadian Soccer] Association stepping up and being honest with us. At this point we'll take anything.
"But we're going to continue the fight."
WATCH | Canadian women's soccer team competes amid ongoing labour dispute:
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.
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.
"Our national federation had completely failed at safeguarding, irresponsibly shifting his predatory behaviour on," Neil said.
WATCH | Labour dispute spills into SheBelieves Cup: