On February 10, 2023, the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association (CSPA)—which represents the Canadian women’s national soccer team—released a statement highlighting deep concerns over pay and funding cuts made by the Canadian Soccer Association (Canada Soccer). As such, the team announced they would be abstaining from all Canada Soccer activities until their concerns were adequately addressed by the organization. However, just one day later, the CSPA released a second statement announcing that the team would not be striking as planned. The association explained that Canada Soccer would deem the job action an “unlawful strike,” and would sue for damages from the team and its individual members—a risk that the team members cannot bear.
According to a CNN article, the players, including Christine Sinclair—captain of the Canadian women’s national soccer team and Olympic gold medalist—noted that funding cuts have resulted in fewer training days, fewer players who can participate in such training, a reduction of activities for youth teams, and uncertainties surrounding player compensation. This comes just months ahead of the upcoming women’s World Cup tournament, standing in stark contrast to the “level of support that was received by the Men’s National Team in 2022,” as noted by the women’s soccer team players.
Despite the team’s decision to forgo striking, players have been engaging in symbolic acts of protest, largely through their uniforms. In a training session held on February 15, 2023, prior to a match against the U.S. national women’s team, players turned their jerseys inside out. During the SheBelieves Cup match on February 16, 2023, against the US team in Orlando, players wore purple jerseys in place of their usual red colored ones for the pre-match anthem. The team stated that the purple jerseys will remain in use, given that the colour purple has “historically been associated with efforts to achieve gender equality.” The CSPA has similarly changed the colour of their logo from red to purple.
Amidst this issue, the Canadian women’s team has received considerable support from the Canadian men’s national soccer team, who also issued a statement reflecting their disappointment regarding the “completely unsatisfactory preparation conditions for this summer’s Women’s World Cup.” Members of the American women’s national soccer team have also publicly declared support for the Canadian players. According to a CNN article, American soccer player Megan Rapinoe stated that despite an on-field rivalry, the US team stands with the Canadian women “100 per cent.” Teams from around the world, such as The Matildas from Australia and the Lionesses from England, wore purple wristbands in recent matches in solidarity with the Canadian women’s national soccer team.
In a statement released February 11, 2023, Canada Soccer claimed that an ongoing negotiation with the women’s and men’s teams is in progress, with hopes of achieving a deal that will be “historic” in terms of pay equity. However, in light of the recent resignation of Canada Soccer president, Nick Bontis, there is uncertainty regarding whether an equitable deal will be reached. Bontis released a statement on February 27, 2023, stating that he “acknowledge[s] that this moment requires change,” and believes that Canada Soccer and the women’s national team will be able to come to a “landmark deal that will set our nation apart from virtually every other FIFA Member Association.”
Regardless of the uncertainties, the Canadian women’s national soccer team remains hopeful for the future. They expressed gratitude to supporters through social media, stating that they are “inspired and motivated,” and will emerge victorious in the fight for pay and gender equity in Canadian women’s soccer.