Amnesty International has published a stinging open letter accusing Canada Soccer of failing to live up to its own stated values in not speaking out louder on behalf of migrant workers ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
In the statement published Saturday, Ketty Nivyabandi, Amnesty Canada’s secretary general, congratulated the team for making their first World Cup in 36 years and fielding a squad “whose thrilling play and rich cultural diversity has already ignited the imagination of the next generation of Canadian sports leaders.
“However, Canada Soccer’s leadership should not be limited to the pitch or the boardroom. Sports fans across the country are looking to our national soccer federation to not to shy away from addressing the serious, widespread harms experienced by those who made this World Cup a reality.”
Amnesty said there has been a “deafening silence” from Canada Soccer on calls by leading human-rights groups to set up an additional compensation fund for migrant workers and do more to pressure Qatar to live up to promises for reform made in the decade since the emirate was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
“Despite recent changes to Qatari labour law, migrant workers still experience delayed or unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs, and limited access to justice,” Ms. Nivyabandi said.
May Romanos and Ella Knight, two researchers with Amnesty International’s Migrant Labour working group, said they had written to Canada Soccer along with other football associations “urging them to support the call for a remedy for workers and use their leverage to push FIFA to commit to such a programme.”
But where other countries responded with “new or increased engagement” on these issues, the researchers said Canada Soccer “did not respond to our letter and since the one meeting in July we had no further engagement with them.”
Spokespeople for Canada Soccer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the open letter, which Amnesty said it sent to the organization on Friday.
In October, Canada Soccer had said it “supports the ongoing pursuit of further progress regarding workers’ rights and inclusivity as Qatar prepares to host the world.”
“While strides have been made in strengthening protections for workers through the Qatar government’s labour reforms, we encourage all partners to continue the dialogue ensuring these reforms translate to tangible improvement in protections for workers’ rights and inclusivity across the country beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the organization said at the time.
“We believe that a legacy of this tournament should be to inspire and encourage further improvements in this area, not just in Qatar but across the entire region.”
Criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and policies toward LGBTQ people has ramped up as the opening of the World Cup on Sunday approaches. In a press conference Saturday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino attacked critics as arrogant and even racist in an hour-long diatribe that opened with the Swiss lawyer saying he understood discrimination because he was once bullied for having red hair.
In a statement in response to Mr. Infantino’s comments, Mustafa Qadri, chief executive of international human-rights organization Equidem, echoed Amnesty’s calls to do more to compensate those workers who suffered in preparing Qatar for the World Cup.
“Infantino’s speech was an insult to the thousands of hard-working women and men who have made the World Cup possible. He had a perfect opportunity to acknowledge that thousands of women and men from the poorest countries came to the richest only to face deception, exploitation and discrimination,” Mr. Qadri said.
“Every day workers are contacting Equidem about unpaid wages, abuse and being terrified about speaking out for fear of retaliation from employers.
“There is a solution here: Infantino should establish a comprehensive compensation fund and demand Qatar establish an independent migrant workers’ centre so workers have a safe space to raise complaints and get the support they need.”