Skip to content

Ex-Burnaby soccer star lauds national team's demand for investigation of her old coach

Former U20 national player and Whitecap Eden Hingwing, 33, says it took her '10 years to say what happened in 2008 was not right'

A former under-20 national team and Vancouver Whitecaps player from Burnaby applauded the Canadian Women’s National soccer team this weekend for using its platform to demand an independent investigation of her old coach.

Burnaby Central Secondary School grad Eden Hingwing, 33, took to Twitter Saturday after Canada Soccer announced it will launch an independent investigation into former under-20 women’s coach Bob Birarda as part of a three-step plan towards a safer sport.

The announcement came in response to a list of demands from the national team sent just before the start of a two-game tour celebrating the side’s gold medal win at the Summer Olympics.

“I’d like to welcome the Canadian Women’s National team to this fight,” Hingwing tweeted. “No medal will fill you with more pride than knowing you’re doing the right thing. It’s uncomfortable and it takes courage. But using your platform to demand better from these organizations will prevent this from happening again. Our kids will be safer in sport because of the stand we take today.”

Hingwing was one of 12 players who released a joint statement in March 2019, alleging they witnessed or experienced incidents of “abuse, manipulation or inappropriate behaviour” by Birarda when he was the head coach of the Whitecaps women’s team and the women’s U20 national talent pool in 2007 and 2008.

Hingwing,  had played on the U20 national team from 2006 to 2008 and the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2006 to 2008.  

“Took me over 10 years to say what happened in 2008 was not right,” she said in her Twitter post Saturday.

She said she finally spoke out after former teammate Ciara McCormack made the allegations against Birarda public with a blog post in February 2019. McCormack said neither the club nor Canada Soccer had adequately investigated her initial complaints.

On Friday, ahead of the national team’s Saturday match against New Zealand, the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association, which represents the team, sent Canada Soccer a letter and list of demands, specifically calling for a “transparent, independent investigation of the allegations against Bob Birarda during the time when he was employed by the organization to understand fully what occurred and to develop recommendations and best practices to better protect our athletes.”

The association further demanded Canada Soccer apologize to victims and “commit publicly and unequivocally to Canada’s soccer community to build a safe environment for our athletes.”

It also called on the federal government to make the Independent Safe Sport Mechanism, a tool for preventing and responding to future cases of harassment, abuse, discrimination and harmful behaviour, mandatory for all national sport organizations by the end of 2021.

In a statement Saturday, Canada Soccer announced it would meet all the team’s demands.

Birarda was dismissed by both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October 2008.

But he was back coaching girls at a club team in Tsawwassen within months, according to a CBC story.

He was suspended from coaching for Coastal FC in Surrey in February 2019 after McCormack’s blog post, the story said.

Birarda was charged in December 2020 with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring.

The alleged offences occurred in North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver between January 1988 and March 25, 2008.

Birarda has not yet entered a plea and the allegations against him have not been proven in court.

His next court date is scheduled for Thursday.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email [email protected]