Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Amnesty International condemned Canadian soccer for avoiding addressing the “serious, widespread harms experienced by those who made this World Cup a reality” in Qatar.

In an open letter to Canada Soccer, Amnesty congratulated Canada’s governing body “for fielding a team whose exciting play and rich cultural diversity have already ignited the imagination of the next generation of Canadian sports leaders.”

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But Ketty Nivyabandi, the general secretary of Amnesty International Canada, called on Canada Soccer to do something off the field.

“Your organization’s deafening silence on fair compensation for affected migrant workers and their families is a failure of leadership and could leave a lasting stain on Canada’s re-emergence on soccer’s biggest stage,” Nivyabandi wrote.

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Amnesty said it had documented that thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, “were subjected to labor abuses, appallingly low wages and other exploitation”.

“Despite recent changes to Qatar’s labor law, migrant workers continue to face delayed or non-payment of wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs and limited access to justice. On top of the country’s work record, homosexuality is banned in Qatar – for example, sex between men is punishable by up to seven years in prison – and Qatari law still treats women as second-class citizens in employment, education, and health care.


Click to play video: 'Calgary soccer fan who worked on Qatar World Cup committee ready for trip of a lifetime'


A Calgary soccer fan who worked on the World Cup committee in Qatar is set for the trip of a lifetime


Canada Soccer issued a statement last month saying it supports “the ongoing pursuit of further progress on labor rights and inclusiveness as Qatar prepares to host the world.”

“While progress has been made in strengthening worker protections through the Qatari government’s labor reforms, we encourage all partners to continue the dialogue to ensure that these reforms lead to tangible improvements in labor rights protection and inclusivity throughout the country after the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.” according to a statement from Canadian Football.

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“We believe that the legacy of this tournament should inspire and drive further improvements in this area, not only in Qatar, but throughout the region.”

Canada Soccer said it met with the Canadian embassy in Doha, Qatar in April, July and September of this year, in addition to meeting and hearing presentations from the International Labor Organization and Amnesty International.

“Through our continued dialogue in recent months, we understand that Qatar’s legal reforms, if fully implemented, have the potential to have a real impact and further improve the protection of labor rights across the country,” Canada Soccer said in a statement. “We encourage all partners to continue efforts to implement recent labor reforms and continue to address past labor abuses.”

Amnesty was not impressed.

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“Canada Soccer has clearly failed to act, raising questions about your stated commitment to upholding Canada’s ‘global reputation as a defender of human and LGBTQ2S rights,'” the open letter said.

Amnesty has called on Canada Soccer, before the Canadians take the field against Belgium on Wednesday, to join a joint call by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and FairSquare Projects, a non-profit human rights organization, for FIFA to create a US$440 million workers’ compensation fund for workers and families “who suffered damage ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.”

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Amnesty noted that other associations, including the English Football Association, the French Football Association, the Royal Netherlands Football Association and US Soccer, have already supported the Workers’ Compensation Fund.

It also asked Canada Soccer to commit to meeting with Amnesty representatives within the next 30 days to discuss “our concerns about Canada Soccer’s response to human rights abuses related to the Qatar World Cup” and “begin to develop an action plan that would lead to Canada Soccer’s emergence as a leader in sport and human rights ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which Canada will co-host.”

“Leadership requires more than treating workers’ rights as a procedural ‘box to check.’ Fortunately, it is not too late for Canada Soccer to step out of the limelight, join other international teams in the field of human rights and become the global player it claims to be.”


Click to play video: 'FIFA president attacks Western 'hypocrisy' over Qatar World Cup'


The president of FIFA attacks the ‘hypocrisy’ of the West regarding the World Cup in Qatar


Canada Soccer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Amnesty’s letter.

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Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s emir, said on October 25 that Qatar was “exposed to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced”.

On Saturday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended Qatar’s immigration policy and praised the government for bringing in migrants to work.

Taking selfies from the stands and sitting on the grass field, thousands of migrant workers gathered at Doha Stadium to watch the opening match of the first World Cup in the Middle East.

A special fan zone set up in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city included a stadium with a huge TV screen and another big screen set up outside for the overflow crowd. It was located near several labor camps where many of Qatar’s hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers live.

“Now we are here to enjoy our sweat,” said Ronald Ssenyondo, a 25-year-old Ugandan who supported Qatar on Sunday.

He was in Qatar for two years, working long hours under the sun to finish the stadiums where the tournament was held.

“I’m just overwhelmed by the things I’m seeing now,” he said.

— With files from Reuters