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Police aware of abuse allegations against former Whitecaps women's coach

Last Updated Apr 17, 2019 at 8:09 pm PDT

FILE: Vancouver Whitecaps during their warm-up in BC Place in August, 2016. (Kayla Butler, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

VPD won't say whether an investigation is underway, but confirms it is aware of allegations

Members of Southsiders fan group to stage a walkout in the 35th minute of Wednesday's Whitecaps match

Canada Soccer says it has the 'highest regard for the safety of all involved in the game'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver Police are aware of allegations that a former coach of the now defunct Whitecaps women’s soccer team was abusive to players more than a decade ago — but the department is not confirming whether an investigation is under way.

“We have been made aware by the Whitecaps organization of the blog,” VPD Sgt. Jason Robillard said, referencing an online post made on April 1 which followed the publication of initial allegations made in February by former player Ciara McCormack.

RELATED: Whitecaps fan group calls for independent investigation into allegations of abuse

“Since that, we haven’t been releasing any further information. We want to encourage anybody that feels they are the victim of any crime to report it to the police.”

WATCH:¬†Planned walkout at tonight’s Whitecaps match

The department revealed this new detail ahead of a planned walkout from the Southsiders fan group in the 35th minute of Wednesday’s MLS match at BC Place between the Whitecaps and LA FC.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment either way,” Robillard said, when asked if an investigation is underway. “What I can say is we have been made aware of the blog … We are aware of [the allegations] and our special investigation unit is well aware of the circumstances laid out in the blog.”

The Southsiders fan group will protest what it describes as the “continued silence from the same Whitecaps executives responsible for the original insufficient actions of the club.”

The partial walkout is an effort to show support to the former players who have come forward — and a call for an independent investigation into what happened more than a decade ago.

RELATED:¬†Former Whitecaps women’s player claims abuse, calls for system overhaul

Since February, more than a dozen former members of the Whitecaps women’s team have shared their stories, claiming a coach which oversaw that club and the U-20 women’s national team in 2008 put them in vulnerable situations.

Among the claims are some saying this coach has touched at least one player inappropriately, sent sexual text messages to players, and held private meetings with players in hotel rooms or his apartment.

In one of those private meetings, it is claimed that a player was told she was not a starting player, and asked what she was going to do about it.

Beyond the claims against this coach, these former players are upset this man was allowed to coach young girls at a club based in Surrey-White Rock upon his departure from the Whitecaps and the national program — despite some of them claiming they were given assurances he would no longer be involved with young female players after he left both organizations in 2008.

In a letter available online through the Whitecaps’ website, addressed to the “Whitecaps Community,” the orgranization says “we are initiating an independent third-party review and assessment of our respectful workplace policies and procedures to ensure they are timely and up to date and are achieving the highest level of leadership and performance.”

WhitecapsFC_letter

Canada Soccer has issued a statement (read in full below), saying it “has the highest regard for the safety of all involved in the game.” It says it has a “robust Code of Conduct and Ethics for all Canada Soccer Staff and representatives.”

It says when it heard of the allegations, it “immediately responded to the concerns” by completing a “thorough review” with an independent Ombudsperson in association with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“Upon conclusion of the investigation, the coach ceased to have any involvement with the National Team Program and the Ombudsperson had no recommendations for further action.”

Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps have repeatedly turned down interview requests on this topic since the allegations were first published. NEWS 1130 has also contacted the coach at the centre of the allegations and has not heard back.

The claims made by these former Whitecaps and U-20 Canadian national team players against this man have not been tested in court.

Full statement from Canada Soccer:

Canada Soccer has the highest regard for the safety of all involved in the game and has established a robust Code of Conduct and Ethics for all Canada Soccer Staff and representatives which is mandated to be implemented by our member associations. We have an open and anonymous reporting system which includes a Whistleblower hotline that is managed by a third party. Independent case managers are assigned to each complaint and an independent judicial body investigates where appropriate.

In addition, Canada Soccer has entered into an agreement with Respect in Sport to include training for all coaches who complete Canada Soccer coach education and has established a condition in the Canada Soccer Club Licensing program that all organizations must adhere to the Canada Soccer Guide to Safety.

With respect to reports recently raised involving the Women’s U-20 National Team Program in 2008, Canada Soccer immediately responded to the concerns raised by participating in a thorough review with an independent Ombudsperson in association with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Upon conclusion of the investigation, the coach ceased to have any involvement with the National Team Program and the Ombudsperson had no recommendations for further action.

The current Canada Soccer Code of Conduct and Ethics, independent Whistleblower hotline and Respect in Sport agreement are all measures that have been introduced to ensure the safety of all involved in the game.

Canada Soccer is aware that the Vancouver Police Department has been alerted to an anonymous website which allegedly contains further information regarding members of the 2008 Women’s U-20 National Team Program. Canada Soccer does not have further details about this ongoing matter, or on the contents or accuracy of the website, but will support all efforts should it be determined that further action is required.