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The Sport Information Resource Centre

The following statement can be attributed to Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer General Secretary:

We acknowledge that the matters we are speaking about today involve real people and have a real impact on human lives. We unequivocally apologise for the Safe Sport challenges within our sport in 2008 and for letting participants down. Harassment, improper texting, bullying, sexual misconduct or any other form of maltreatment or abuse has no place in soccer, at any level in our country.

I want to thank Richard McLaren and McLaren Global Sports Solutions for their work in producing a comprehensive report.

The McLaren Report makes it clear that while the organisation acted swiftly in 2008 to address concerns that ultimately led to the removal of Women’s U-20 National Team Head Coach Bob Birarda, the processes that were in place were not followed. The organisation’s response, taken almost 15 years ago, was not good enough.

The McLaren Report also states that the organisation’s knowledge of the 2008 complaints was limited to inappropriate texting and did not include the subsequent allegations and the admissions of sexual harassment Birarda later made in 2019.

With that said, we accept the findings outlined in the McLaren Report, and more importantly, we accept all recommendations and commit publicly to review, adopt, and enhance those recommendations.

Advancing these recommendations is an important continuation of the significant steps taken since 2008 and, for us, we are committed to doing more than just implementing these recommendations. It is our goal to be the national and international leaders of Safe Sport.

Together, in the past 15 years, we have implemented critical governance reform nationally in order to address the safety concerns within our sport:

  • We now have a Whistleblower Policy;
  • We introduced a Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program;
  • We enacted a National Soccer Registry;
  • We put in place a Coach Education Certification and Registration;
  • We replaced our Harassment Policy with the Code of Conduct and Ethics in 2017;
  • We followed that up with the development of the Canada Soccer Disciplinary Code in 2020, which puts an emphasis on the independent nature of our judicial bodies that deal with complaints of misconduct and clearly articulates the process in which complaints are filed; 
  • We published the “Canada Soccer Guide to Safety” which allowed us to develop several new programs and policies that have amplified our capacity to better receive and triage harassment complaints.

These were all essential steps to take since 2008, but the work to make our sport safer should never end. What our organisation has in place today is just the foundation of what we are building. That is the reason we have engaged the services of ITP Sport and Recreation, Canada’s first and only Safe Sport consulting and program agency, to get us to where we want to be.

“We are excited to start this important work with Canada Soccer,” said Allison Forsyth, Co-Founder ITP Sport. “We will drive forward as quickly as possible while setting up a system for long-term success. This partnership will shift the way this country views Safe Sport. We are confident it will set the sport up for success for many years to come. Canada Soccer is trailblazing in this space with this commitment.”

Allison Forsyth, a two-time Olympian and eight-time Canadian Champion, is also a sexual-abuse survivor in the Canadian sport system. Co-founder, Ilan Yampolsky, has decades of experience and is widely recognised as one of Canada’s leading experts in Safe Sport.

“Combined, with their extensive team of experts, Allison and IIan will be reviewing all of our existing policies, programs and practices to ensure they are updated and looked upon as the gold standard across our county,” said Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer General Secretary. “They will also be assisting in implementing the recommendations in the McLaren Report, as well as building out a comprehensive program to be rolled out across the entire sport — from grassroots to the national level.”

As the governing body for soccer in Canada, it is our duty, indeed our responsibility, to deliver further progress and to meet this moment — to ensure the safest possible environment for all participants of our game.