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Canadian national team demands Canada Soccer address culture of abuse

Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The Canadian women’s national team is petitioning Canada Soccer to address a culture of abuse and silence in the sport.

The team sent a letter with a list of demands to Canada Soccer on Friday night, ahead of their 5-1 win over New Zealand on Saturday, as first reported by TSN’s Shireen Ahmed. In their message, the national team’s players referenced the allegations of misconduct that have shaken the NWSL in recent weeks.

“With everything that has happened as of late with the NWSL we have recognized the power of the collective and how important it is to stand against a culture of abuse and silence,” the letter reads.

The Canadian players also outlined steps for the federation to take to ensure safety in sport.

“We call on Canada Soccer, its board of directors, its executives, and its coaching staff to commit publicly and unequivocally to Canada’s soccer community to build a safe environment for our athletes,” they wrote. “We also call on Canada Soccer to apologize to those who have been victimized and abused while playing the sport they love.”

The letter specially addresses Bob Birarda, the former Vancouver Whitecaps and U20 women’s national team coach who has been charged with nine sex-related offenses in British Columbia.

“We call on Canada Soccer to initiate a transparent, independent investigation of the allegations against Bob Birarda during the time when he was employed by the organization to understand fully what occurred and to develop recommendations and best practices to better protect our athletes,” the players wrote.

Canada Soccer officials responded to the players’ requests with a statement on Saturday.

“Equally important is Canada Soccer’s responsibility to recognize the role that our Women’s National Team has had, and continues to have, in advocating for issues that not only effect our soccer community, but our entire national sporting system,” the federation said.

Canadian players joined together in a minute of silence before their friendly against New Zealand in a show of “solidarity with the victims in our sport.”

Goalkeeper Erin McLeod told TSN ahead of Saturday’s game, “I know this is a victory tour, and I also know how important that is, but we had a vote yesterday about the minute of silence and the demands and it was unanimous. One hundred percent of the team recognizes that this is way more important. We have the opportunity for significant change.”