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Canada part of winning World Cup bid for 2026 men’s soccer showcase

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  • The World Cup is coming to Canada.

    FIFA’s member associations voted 134 to 65, with one no-vote, Wednesday in favour of the joint North American bid by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup over that of Morocco at the FIFA Congress in Moscow.

    “Football today is the only victor,” said U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro.

    Morocco, which has now lost five bid campaigns, was classy in defeat — congratulating the North American winners.

    Mexico has twice hosted the World Cup, in 1970 and 1986. The U.S. hosted in 1994.

    Canada failed in its lone previous bid — to host the 1986 tournament after Colombia pulled out as host. That remains the only World Cup the Canadian men have ever qualified for.

    The hosting decision likely opens the door to Canada finally returning to the men’s world stage — a widely expected scenario as co-host that has yet to be officially confirmed. But with the tournament expanding from 32 to 48 teams in 2026, tripling the hosts would not cause as many ripples.

    Officials have already talked of staging three games, one in each of the three countries, to kick off the tournament.

    Steven Reed, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, called the FIFA Congress decision “an extraordinary honour and privilege.”

    CONCACAF, whose president — Canadian Victor Montagliani — played a key role in the bid, called the vote a “monumental victory” for the confederation that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.  

    The current blueprint calls for Canada and Mexico to stage 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60. But that is not carved in stone.

    Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are Canadian candidate host cities for the men’s soccer showcase, expanded to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament. 

    FIFA will select up to 16 host cities from the 23 candidates proposed in the North American bid.

    The mayors of two of Canada’s host cities celebrated the early-morning announcement on Twitter. Both Valerie Plante of Montreal and John Tory of Toronto retweeted a video of the bid team reacting to the news, with Tory adding, “”We won! The 2026 World Cup is coming to Canada, the U.S. & Mexico!”

    Vancouver will watch from the sidelines after the B.C. government, citing concerns over the possible costs of being a host city, was unable to come to terms with the bid committee. Chicago and Minneapolis also withdrew, citing similar worries.

    FIFA’s hosting selection process was revamped in the wake of recent scandals enveloping the world governing body of soccer.

    All of FIFA’s 211 member associations — save the bidding countries — were eligible to take part in the electronic vote. In the past, only members of what was then the FIFA executive committee decided via secret ballot.

    FIFA president Gianni Infantino called the new voting procedure a “thorough, transparent” process.

    The two rivals bids each got 15 minutes to make one last pitch Wednesday, with the North American bid going first.

    Canada turned to teenage Vancouver Whitecaps star Alphonso Davies to open its presentation.

    Davies’ parents fled their home in Monrovia, Liberia, to escape a civil war. They ended up at a refugee camp in Ghana, where Davies was born.

    “It was a hard life. But when I was five years old, a country called Canada welcomed us in,” he told the Congress. “And the boys on the football team made me feel at home.

    “Today I’m 17 years old and I play for the (Canadian) men’s national team. And I’m a proud Canadian citizen. And my dream is to some day compete in the World Cup, maybe even in my home town of Edmonton.

    “The people of North America have always welcomed me. If given the opportunity, I know they will welcome you,” he added.

    Reed called Canada a “growing football nation that proudly welcomes people from all over the world.” 

    A film promised natural grass on every pitch at “iconic” and “state-of-the art” stadiums already built, a sly dig at Morocco, whose stadium infrastructure is far from complete.

    “We expect record profits for FIFA of (US)$11 billion,” said Cordeiro, perhaps hitting the key button. 

    In its film presentation, Morocco billed itself “a country with a heart beating for football, a country where football is more than a sport.”

    It promised a profit of $5 billion for FIFA.

    Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Moroccan Royal Football Federation, noted Africa has only ever hosted the World Cup once.

    “Now we’re asking for a second chance to show our abilities,” he said through an interpreter.

    Prior to the vote, Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association and Canada’s bid director, called the vote a “watershed moment” and a “game-changer.”

    On paper, the two bids are worlds apart.

    In rating the risk assessment of both bidders, with grades of low-, medium- and high-risk, FIFA’s own bid evaluation report gave Morocco three high-risk grades (stadiums, accommodation, and accommodation and transport), 10 medium and seven low.

    The North American bid got 17 low-risk assessments and three medium (organizing cost, legal-government support, and human rights and labour standards).

    The evaluation report also offers a “technical scoring” of the two bids, with Morocco getting 274.9 out of 500, compared to the United bid’s 402.8 total.

    The United bid plans to use 16 stadiums from a list of 23 — 17 of which are deemed just fine the way they are, with six needing renovation. Morocco planned to use 14 stadiums, nine of which had yet to be built with the other five due for renovation.

     

     

     

    Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


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    Canada should do more to help women refugees worldwide: Oxfam Canada

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  • OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s self-proclaimed feminist government could and should be doing more to address gender-specific challenges faced by female refugees affected by wars and displacement.

    That’s according to a new report from Oxfam Canada, which takes a close look at how Canada provides international humanitarian aid and the gaps that exist when it comes to outcomes for women and girls in refugee situations.

    Canada has made great strides when it comes to making gender equality and feminism a key priority of its domestic and foreign policy agenda, but more can be done to help women being disproportionately affected by global crisis, the report says.

    “Currently, Canada’s international assistance funding is out of step with its ambition to be a world leader on gender equality and feminist aid and foreign policy,” the report states.

    “The fact that Canada’s international assistance spending is at a near historical low, merely reaching 0.26 per cent of gross national income, as compared to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent, undermines its credibility and leadership on the international stage.”

    The study zeros in on areas where women in conflict zones are not getting the help they need or where efforts to improve gender equality in these areas are not being fully realized.

    Some of the findings are unsettling, including a statistic showing 25 to 50 per cent of maternal deaths in refugee camps are caused by unsafe abortions and related complications.

    This is due, in part, to a lack of adequate access to sexual and reproductive health services, which are often seen as a “second-tier” priority when people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict.

    “Our argument is that services are totally life-saving when you consider, for example, that last year 500 women and girls died during emergencies every single day from pregnancy and childbirth complications simply because sexual and reproductive health and rights weren’t a priority,” said Brittany Lambert, a women’s rights policy and advocacy specialist with Oxfam Canada.

    “These things should be prioritized from the very inception of these humanitarian responses and could save many lives.”

    Oxfam Canada also published findings last month following a series of interviews, focus groups and surveys of hundreds of women and men from the host and refugee communities in Bangladesh, suggesting Rohingya women and girls who survived genocide in Myanmar are facing new risks in refugee camps, notably when it comes to access to water and sanitation facilities.

    Some women are choosing to go hungry and thirsty and are restricting their children’s diets in order to limit their trips to these facilities to reduce risks of physical and sexual abuse and harassment, according to this research. 

    The organization is calling on Canada to develop a 10-year plan to achieve the United Nations aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income.

    It also wants Canada to establish a dedicated pool of 15 per cent of all its humanitarian aid to be specifically earmarked to address the needs of women and girls.

    “Right now the way Canada’s funding system works is that humanitarian assistance is aligned with the global humanitarian system priorities, which are things like shelter, water, food — but gender is not one of those categories,” Lambert said.

    “Women’s needs can be inserted into these categories but there are really limited funding opportunities to actually undertake programming that address gender inequality as a main goal so that’s why we’re calling for a stand alone pool of funding where Canada could actually fund this kind of feminist programming.”

    In addition, Oxfam Canada says the Trudeau government should take firmer action to ensure weapons do not end up in the hands of those who commit gender-based violence.

    Several international aid agencies, including Amnesty International, have said loopholes exist in Canada’s arms export policy that would allow arms sales to the United States — weapons which could end up being transferred to countries that abuse human rights.

    The government has announced several measures aimed at championing women’s issues both at home and abroad, including launching a feminist international assistance policy and a national action plan on women and government. Canada also disbursed more than $68 million in humanitarian assistance to support sexual and reproductive health needs in 2017-18.

    In addition, Canada has committed to increase its foreign aid effort by $2 billion over five years, which will bring total assistance to nearly $6 billion by 2021, says Global Affairs Canada.

    “We agree with the report that we need to ensure that the voices of civil society partners and affected communities, particularly women and girls, are included throughout the humanitarian response,” said the statement from Global Affairs Canada.

    “That is why Canada expects its partners to directly consult affected communities, and ensure that women and girls, in particular, are involved in the design of initiatives and decision-making processes that affect their lives.”

     

    —Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

     

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


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    MP pays tribute to baby daughter on pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative MP Tom Kmiec choked back tears as he recalled his infant daughter in a heartfelt speech in the House of Commons to mark national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

    Kmiec’s daughter Lucy-Rose died in August when she was only 39 days old.

    MPs from all parties struggled to maintain their own composure as an emotional Kmiec used a member’s statement as an opportunity to thank the medical staff who cared for Lucy-Rose, the neighbours who brought his family food and support, and the parliamentarians who sent their condolences.

    Lucy-Rose died of Trisomy 13, a genetic condition that leaves babies with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Also called Patau syndrome, only five to 10 per cent of babies diagnosed with it will live past their first year.

    “On this day, let us grieve with the parents who have lost a child, as well as the siblings who lost a lifelong best friend,” Kmiec said.

    Speaker Geoff Regan said he hoped Kmiec could see that love and support from the parliamentary family was around him.

    About one in five pregnancies in Canada ends in miscarriage.

    Congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities are the leading cause of death for babies under the age of one year. In 2016, 404 infants died of a congenital abnormality, according to Statistics Canada.

    In all, more than 1,700 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, 75 per cent of them before they were one month old.

    On Tuesday, the House of Commons human resources committee is starting to study the impact on parents of the death of an infant, including possible updates to parental leave programs and benefits.

    The study comes after a motion from Conservative MP Blake Richards, who identified shortcomings in the parental leave program when it comes to being compassionate to parents who are grieving.

    Kmiec urged MPs to hug their kids the next time they go home.

    “If they are old and have their own (kids), hug them anyway, even if they protest,” he said. “Life is too short and none of us knows when our time will come.”

    The Canadian Press


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